Mobile Store Service Now Live With Beta Test
Mobile grocery store provider Robomart launched an invite-only beta test in West Hollywood, California, where local residents can download the Robomart app and request an invite code. The app enables consumers to tap a button to “hail” a store on wheels in less than 10 minutes and shop checkout-free for daily essentials at home, with no need to go to the store or wait for a delivery window.
Already available for hailing, the Pharmacy Robomart stocks more than 500 packs of 50 everyday products, including over-the-counter medications, first-aid items, toiletries, tooth care, personal care, kitchen products and household goods. The Grocery Robomart is set to roll out in the coming weeks, giving consumers access to fresh produce and dairy.
“Robomart serves as an essential service at this critical time by providing consumers with a fully contactless and personalized shopping experience,” noted Emad Rahim, the Santa Monica, California-based company’s chief strategy officer, who co-founded the company in early 2018 with fellow Unilever alum Ali Ahmed and robotics expert Tigran Shahverdyan.
Pooling their deep domain expertise in on-demand delivery, food retailing and automation, Robomart’s founders came up with the concept incorporating a key insight uncovered by Ahmed when he launched an on-demand delivery startup: Consumers rarely trust dispatchers to pick their groceries.
Robomart’s model distributes inventory into moving vehicles and hyperlocal restocking stations to dramatically increase speed and availability. The company teamed with Zeeba Vans, a San Francisco-based fleet leasing company that has made a strategic in-kind investment of 100 vans over the next two years, which will enable Robomart to scale up rapidly.
“The startup world has been a bit myopic on fully autonomous driving as the only path to profitable on-demand commerce,” said Garrett Winther, partner at San Francisco-based venture capital firm HAX, an investor in Robomart. “The reality is that a few shifts in the underlying local distribution model and clever operational integrations allows for ‘store-hailing’ to scale much sooner than everyone expects.”
Robomart has also joined forces at launch with Glendale, California-based Avery Dennison Corp. to supply the RFID tags used to enable the mobile grocery stores’ checkout-free experience, and with Lincolnshire, Illinois-based Zebra Technologies to supply the RFID readers and antennas deployed in Robomart’s vehicles.
The service is launching with drivers, but in the future Robomart plans to add driverless vehicles to its fleet as regulation allows. Autonomous vehicles have been the focus of ongoing pilots with such food retailers as Walmart, The Kroger Co. and Save Mart, while similar concept Grocery Neighbour, a Toronto-based fledgling mobile grocery store operation that aims to have 1,000 vehicles in operation over the next five years, would function roughly similar to a bus route, according to founder Frank Sinopoli, with communities interested in the operation getting regularly scheduled service at designated points.
In 2019, Robomart and Northeastern supermarket chain Stop & Shop, an Ahold Delhaize USA banner, were to embark on a test of mobile grocery stores in the greater Boston area, but ran into difficulties gaining approval from local officials to proceed.