Will store-hailing revolutionize grocery delivery?
Startup Robomart, which a few years ago was working on a fully-autonomous mobile grocery delivery vehicle, has pivoted slightly to become what the company is calling a store-hailing platform. The Santa Monica, CA-based startup is touting store-hailing as the first new channel created in the retail world since e-commerce and anticipates it will create as big of a shift as the advent of e-commerce in the 1990s.
Robomart users can use a smartphone app to browse the selection in a given mobile store, which consists of a van stocked with product, according to the Baltimore Sun. They can then order the mobile store to their location (“hailing” it like a rideshare), use their smartphone to unlock the door and remove products which are automatically charged to their account.
Robomart has a pharmacy mobile store which will be going live after a successful pilot, as well as grocery and ready-to-eat snack stores which it plans to deploy in Los Angeles soon.
Unlike other similar solutions in the mobile delivery space which have focused on autonomous delivery vehicles, this iteration of Robomart is operated by a live driver (who plays no role in the transaction).
The company has a headquarters planned to open in Baltimore over the next three years, from which it intends to launch an East Coast expansion.
While Robomart is not the only company working on non-autonomous mobile marts, many of them have been less tech-enabled and geared toward residing in one or more specific locations, rather than being called from place to place on a per-order basis.
Kroger’s Zero Hunger Mobile Mart serves a similar function to Metro Market.
Others take slightly different tacks, like Vendamarts, a mobile grocery solution from Carts Blanche based in Mobile, AL. Vendamarts consist of a trailer that can be fitted with up to 10 vending machines, including ones storing refrigerated/frozen products, and placed in an area to allow customers to queue up and serve themselves.
- Robomart, planning a Baltimore presence, says ‘hail a store’ retail offers a new way to shop – The Baltimore Sun
- Mobile grocery store sees interest grow after 1 year in St. Louis food deserts – St. Louis Public Radio
- Will retailers go on the road with self-driving mobile stores – RetailWire
- Can remotely managed mobile-marts safely bring groceries to areas in need? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think there is a business opportunity for “store hailing” concepts to succeed? What do you see as the challenges and opportunities around such a concept?