Will electronic carts help Kroger fulfill curbside pickup orders more quickly?
Kroger is introducing a temperature-controlled electronic cart to speed up its curbside fulfillment.
The cart, called the BrightDrop Trace Grocery cart, was originally piloted in Kroger stores in Lexington and Versailles, KY, and is marked for a broader rollout since the pilot yielded a noticeable improvement in both customer and associate experience, according to the Detroit News.
The cart is fitted with nine secure, temperature controlled drawers in which employees can stock grocery orders before wheeling the cart to the curb. It is mechanized to allow an employee to easily pull 350 pounds of groceries at a comfortable walking pace. The next wave of the rollout will be limited, but the companies expect wide-scale availability of the cart by 2024.
Curbside pickup experienced an unprecedented spike in adoption at the beginning of the novel coronavirus pandemic as government regulations limited in-store shopping and concerns about potentially contracting COVID-19 kept shoppers out of stores.
The popularity of curbside pickup has created challenges for retailers that have had to account for the cost of the investment in added labor and technology as well as the loss of impulse purchases, as a recent Washington Post article explains.
Sam’s Club, for instance, added a $4 surcharge for those using curbside pickup without a Sam’s Club Plus premium membership. Experts worry such surcharges in mainstream grocery, however, could push customers to competitors, especially since customers sometimes use curbside as a way to avoid delivery charges with services like Instacart.
Speeding up curbside does appear to speak to what customers are looking for. Back in late 2020, a Rakuten survey found that a great majority of customers (78 percent) considered having their order ready when they arrived at pickup to be the most important part of the curbside pickup experience.
The new cart at Kroger is not the only way retailers have been using technology to speed up the curbside pickup process.
Panera Bread, for example, has begun using GPS technology to alert store staff that curbside customers are nearing the store, according to a National Retail Federation (NRF) blog.
- GM’s BrightDrop electric cart will appear in Kroger stores for grocery pickup – Detroit News
- Curbside pickup is here to stay, and retailers are going all-in – The Washington Post
- Has COVID-19 revealed pickup pain points? – RetailWire
- 5 ways retailers are innovating curbside pickup – National Retail Federation
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you see as the biggest challenges that retailers face with curbside pickup and how can technology address these? Do you think the electronic cart technology addressed in the article will improve the curbside pickup experience for customers and associates?