DoorDash Expands Grocery Offerings as Supermarkets Tap Robotics

This week in grocery, DoorDash adds merchants, and Co-op taps delivery robotics and retailers automate inventory.

DoorDash, the United States’ leading aggregator, has been leveraging grocery to attract more customers. On Tuesday (March 14), the company announced that it is partnering with Seattle food co-op PCC Community Markets to deliver on-demand from 15 of the grocer’s 16 stores.

The news comes as part of a broader push on the aggregator’s part to expand its grocery and other non-restaurant options, having recently added thousands of Aldi locations as well as 700 Party City stores.

Certainly, these areas hold significant growth potential for the company. On the aggregator’s fourth-quarter earnings call last month, chief financial officer Prabir Adarkar noted that the company’s third-party U.S. grocery business saw 100% year-over-year growth in the third and fourth quarters, with these options bringing new consumers into the fold.

“We see a growing number of new customers starting with non-restaurant categories,” Adarkar told analysts. “It is a source of customer acquisition, because there might be customers out there that … find DoorDash interesting, because their favorite grocery store, their favorite convenience store is on the platform.”

Indeed, the category offers a sizable opportunity, with eGrocery adoption has come a long way in recent years. Research from PYMNTS’ new study “Changes in Grocery Shopping Habits and Perception,” which draws from a December survey of more than 2,400 U.S. consumers, finds that 45% now shop for groceries online at least some of the time. 

Co-op Partners with Starship on Autonomous Delivery

With many of these online grocery customers seeking the convenience of home delivery, grocers and aggregators alike are challenged to find a way to make the economics of the channel work. Some have been experimenting with robotic deliveries to cut labor cost.

On Wednesday (March 15), a major United Kingdom consumer co-operative Co-op announced that it is launching autonomous grocery delivery in the Manchester area in partnership with robotics company Starship Technologies.

“Co-op stores are well placed in the heart of local communities to provide quick, easy and convenient home deliveries — whether a full shop or last-minute top-ups,” Chris Conway, Co-op’s eCommerce director, said in a statement. “We are committed to exploring new and innovative ways to increase access to our products and services, and delighted to be able to roll-out autonomous robots to provide additional online flexibility and choice in Greater Manchester.”

The robots reach 10,500 households, fulfilling orders placed through Starship’s app and picked at area Co-op stores. The fee for these deliveries is less expensive than those typically associated with delivery via human courier, amounting to £0.99 (US$1.21). 

Grocers Leverage Scanning Robots to Reduce Labor Costs

As grocers are challenged to work harder for consumers’ loyalty amid inflation, one of the key factors that can set a merchant apart is having fully stocked shelves.

On Tuesday, less than a week after speaking in the abstract about its plans to roll out shelf-scanning robots to take the labor out of tracking out-of-stocks and inventory, membership warehouse retailer BJ’s Wholesale Club announced that it is deploying artificial intelligence (AI) company Simbe Robotics’ “Tally” inventory-checking bots in all 237 locations.

“By deploying Tally in all of our club locations, we will gain unprecedented insights which will leverage real-time data, enabling us to continuously improve our operation and ensure that we’re offering the best possible experience to both our team members and members,” BJ’s executive vice president, chief operations officer Jeff Desroches said in a statement.

Research from PYMNTS’ “Decoding Customer Affinity” study, created in collaboration with Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions, which drew from a survey of more than 2,000 U.S. consumers, noted that 51% of shoppers said ensuring that the grocery products they want are in stock and available for purchase is key to their continued patronage of a given merchant.

Meanwhile, grocery wholesaler UNFI is leveraging scanning robotics to improve its warehouses, measuring delivery accuracy and efficiency at its Centralia, Washington distribution center, per a Wednesday announcement.

“We’ll be deploying automation to improve the service we provide retailers, better manage external labor resources, and create a more efficient operating network system in the Pacific Northwest over time,” UNFI chief supply chain transformation officer Erin Horvath said in a statement. “These actions are key pillars of our overall transformation agenda, including our mission to invest in service, quality, and efficiency improvements for our existing and future customers and delivering more profitability for our shareholders.”