Tuesday 3 November 2015

Starship-robot home delivery – a new threat for the mults?

     ‘Step aside, old guy’                                                                   pic: Starship Technologies

Former Skype co-founders have announced the launch of auto-buggies that are capable of carrying the equivalent of two grocery bags, and complete local deliveries within 5-30 minutes from a local hub or retail outlet, for £1.50 a drop, 10-15 times less than the cost of current last-mile delivery alternatives.

Thus in one stroke, they will become the latest market disruptor, meeting consumer needs to shop smaller, faster and more conveniently, with a delivery cost that undermines the traditional £20 cost that causes major retailers to lose £15 on a £5 delivery charge…

Starship Technologies is currently testing and demonstrating prototypes and plans to launch the first pilot services in cooperation with its service partners in the US, UK and other countries in 2016.

Customers can choose from a selection of short, precise delivery slots, and during delivery, shoppers can track the robot’s location in real time through a mobile app. On arrival only the app holder is able to unlock the cargo. Integrated navigation and obstacle avoidance software enables the robots to drive autonomously, but they are also overseen by human operators who can step in to ensure safety at all times, and where necessary converse with pedestrians.

Forgetting for a moment all the reasons why robot-delivery is not going to work, move into just-suppose mode and survey the post-success scene:
  • Reductions in traditional home delivery charges…consumers already twitchy
  • Mults/Ocado adopt robot-delivery, possibly leasing from Starship Tech?
  • Or mults leave the small-delivery field and focus on ‘big deliveries’
  • Just think applications in other categories/services…and don’t expect Jeff Bezos to sit this one out…

One thing is certain, the ‘fundamental re-structuring’ of the grocery market still has a mile to go…

Action for suppliers:
Starship Technologies are unlikely to attempt the additional risk of setting up of product-aggregation hubs and will probably form alliances with a wholesaler/s and/or possibly a major multiple..

If a wholesaler, expect that wholesaler to grow, and become more profitable and powerful.

In other words, time to reshuffle your customer portfolio deck, again!

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