Autonomous Grocery Delivery Today and Tomorrow.

Nuro Autonomous Delivery Vehicle

Kroger is using unmanned autonomous vehicles to deliver groceries in Scottsdale, Arizona. The company has a partnership with Nuro, a Silicon Valley startup that offers a self-driving service. Customers will be able to use the service by placing an order on the Fry’s Food Stores mobile app or website.

Yael Cosset, Kroger's chief digital officer, shared, "Kroger customers are looking for new, convenient ways to feed their families and purchase the products they need quickly through services like pickup and delivery."

Walmart is expanding its tests of driverless cars as a way to get online grocery orders to shoppers' homes more quickly. The big-box retailer is now piloting a program to use Udelv autonomous-driving vans to deliver fresh groceries in Surprise, Arizona.

"We want to make sure we stay on the cutting edge of grocery delivery by exploring what's new and next," Tom Ward, senior vice president of Walmart's digital operations in the U.S., said.

There are many companies now testing autonomous delivery for groceries, which brings me to a few questions; "will autonomous grocery delivery take off? Is the customer experience one that will properly represent the company? Do consumers want to receive their groceries from a person or do they prefer a driverless car? Finally, and perhaps most importantly. If grocers are using robotic warehouses and driverless cars to deliver their groceries, will the cost of groceries go down?

Here is what I think about autonomous delivery.

It will take off in the grocery industry, but only in small cities and rural areas. Heavy traffic and parking restrictions will make it impossible for driverless vehicles to efficiently, and safely deliver in densely populated areas. Sorry Manhattan!

Retailers will be giving up on the personal relationship they can build with their e-commerce customers by removing the driver, and that will commoditize the service even more. Meaning price, speed, and quality will be the main factors customers will take into consideration when making a grocery order online.

Finally, there's the Price. According to Udelv, users have full control over the delivery time and location, without any restrictions due to scheduling. Udelv also claims to reduce the time and cost of the delivery by 50%, which should, in theory, reduce the charge to the end-user. If Udelv can deliver on these promises, consumers will be very likely to begin ordering their groceries from companies that offer Udelv or other autonomous delivery solutions.

All of this leads me to my next issue. The big-box retailers now using autonomous delivery, will inevitably purchase the companies processing the deliveries. These acquisitions will increase the gap between the winners and losers of the grocery e-commerce wars that are taking place in America and around the world.

So what can grocers do to maintain their edge in the grocery delivery market? The answer is to build out a long-term, branded e-commerce strategy that makes the customer experience the most critical aspect of the business.

Grocers who are building their own branded websites, or partnering with companies like Self Point to offer the holistic e-commerce solution, together with marketing, robotic warehouses, and delivery solutions. Will be able to service the demand of today's consumer and compete with the commoditized service that Amazon, Kroger, and Walmart will be offering customers by keeping it personal.

To finish off this article, here is some food for thought.

Will retailers purchase driverless vehicles in the future to offer free and efficient delivery, or perhaps we, as consumers, will begin to own driverless cars to run errands for us making our life more comfortable and efficient?

For more information about how to build out your holistic e-commerce business. Reach out to me at

I am Mendel Gniwisch.

I have been working in the grocery industry for the last few years, developing strategies for grocers to advance into the digital age. I love to spend time with my family, my work, skiing, and studying the craftsmanship of cigars and whiskey. I'm always happy to learn from anyone I can and love driving positive change in organizations and industries.

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