Retailers have spent the past few years developing the best options for getting products to consumers. Not so long ago, Amazon’s promise of free, two-day delivery (from Monday through Friday) to Prime members seemed revolutionary. Fast forward to 2016, though, and Amazon’s promise no longer seems innovative. Sunday and same-day delivery, storage lockers and in-store pickup are now options for consumers in many large cities. There are also more futuristic options in the pipeline, including deliveries made by drones and robots.
Recent news reports have highlighted another potential delivery method: self-driving delivery trucks. Google has been making headlines with its promise of self-driving cars. While it appears there are still technological and safety factors to be considered in the development of these vehicles, that hasn’t stopped the company from seeking, and being awarded, a patent for a self-driving delivery truck.
Unlike a self-driving car, which will carry passengers (including someone in the driver’s seat who can take over if there is a malfunction), these trucks operate entirely on their own, with no driver or delivery person on board. Package recipients are responsible for retrieving their own packages from the vehicle.
A recent story on the news website, Quartz, explains how the proposed vehicle might work.
“Google’s patent outlines what it calls an ‘autonomous delivery platform’ for delivery trucks,” according to the piece. “The trucks would be fitted with a series of lockers that could potentially be unlocked with a PIN code sent to the person waiting for the delivery before the truck arrives at their location. The patent also suggests the locker could be unlocked by a customer’s credit card, or an NFC reader. After the package is dropped off, the truck will continue on to its next delivery point, or return to the depot to pick up more packages.”
Of course, industry pros have been eager to weigh in on this issue.
Colby Beland, vice president of sales and marketing at CaseStack said: “I can say that we’re going to have self-driving trucks and get a lot of attention for my company. But there would be so many government entities that I would have to go through that I would be tied up for years. Amazon and Google both are telling the consumer that this sort of thing is coming — self-driving trucks and drones. Well, the “Jetsons” are coming, but its years away because of regulations.” As Beland says, there will need to be a lot of testing before the trucks hit the road. Still, this patent shows how retail logistics efforts have become a catalyst for the development of futuristic technologies that will have an impact on every area of our lives.
Kroger Considers Fresh Market Buy
The Kroger Co. is the top grocery chain in the United States and the third largest retailer in the world (after Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Costco). Analysts attribute its success to several factors, including longevity (Kroger started operations in 1883), as well as a strong commitment to innovation and quality testing.
In recent years, Kroger has chosen to fight back against competition by improving customer service, developing private label brands (including organics), and by carefully considered acquisitions of competing chains.
The grocer’s latest target? The Fresh Market chain. Fresh Market has 182 stores in the U.S. and emphasizes fresh, gourmet foods. The floorplans of Fresh Market stores are designed to invoke the open, spacious feel of European markets.
Jeremy Bowman of Motley Fool noted: “It figures that Kroger would be part of the mix. The company is the largest pure-play grocer in the country, having snatched up banners including Fred Meyer, King Soopers and Ralph’s over the years, and more recently Harris Teeter and Roundy’s.
“Kroger’s acquisition strategy has proved to be a savvy one,” Bowman wrote, “as it allows the company to grow without further saturating the grocery market. As competitors add new stores, it only makes sense that weaker brands would lose sales, as supermarkets are a slow growth industry and can only support so many new stores each year.”
While Fresh Market has had its share of struggles, the brand has its enthusiasts. By taking over the stores, Kroger may be able to do what it has with other acquisitions: Acquire technology and business practices that allow it to continue to maintain its position at the top of the grocery store food chain.