New agreements from Uber and Loblaw set the stage to bring AVs to the last and middle-mile.
A pair of moves to deploy driverless vehicles are being called landmarks for the efforts to introduce autonomous logistics into ecommerce.
The partnerships span both the last mile and middle mile. Take a look:
In Canada, the grocer Loblaw is expanding a relationship with Gatik, an autonomous middle mile logistics company.
This week, Gatik said it is launching fully-driverless vehicle operations for Loblaw. Gatik box trucks are transporting “select” grocery orders for Loblaw’s PC Express service, which provides delivery of grocery and convenience items.
It marks the first time Gatik removed the driver on a daily delivery route in Canada. The companies said autonomous vehicles enable Loblaw to operate more routes, make more frequent trips, and create a more sustainable and resilient supply chain.
The companies started deploying autonomous vehicles in January 2020. They have since transported 150,000 autonomous deliveries with a safety driver onboard. The safety record in that time has been 100%, the companies said.
To verify safety, Loblaw commissioned a three-month study by a third-party firm. Then, Gatik’s fleet transported goods seven days a week from a Loblaw distribution facility to five retail locations in Greater Toronto on fixed, repetitive and predictable routes.
“This milestone marks the expansion of Gatik’s autonomous delivery service to Loblaw’s customers across multiple sites,” said Gautam Narang, CEO and cofounder of Gatik, in a statement. “Canada is the latest market in which we’ve launched our fully driverless service, further validating that the tangible benefits of autonomous delivery are being realized first in B2B short-haul logistics. It’s a privilege to achieve this commercial and technical landmark with Canada’s largest retailer.”
Gatik’s box trucks are designed for the middle mile, which transports goods between retail facilities and storage. Last month, the company signed an agreement with Pitney Bowes to pilot autonomous logistics for ecommerce operations in the Dallas area, starting in early 2023. The growth shows the advantages of autonomy can be realized not only in delivery, but also in moving goods upstream.
It comes on the same week that Loblaw is expanding last-mile delivery options as well. Alongside PC Express, Loblaw is making delivery from DoorDash available at nearly 1,100 stores under its umbrella. While ordering will be available through DoorDash Marketplace, DoorDash will also power delivery of PC Express goods through its white-label service.
"Online grocery has changed. It is not a one-size fits all solution. Customers are looking for varying levels of convenience – orders within minutes, shopping from favourite apps, and a seamless experience," said Galen G. Weston, president of Loblaw companies.
Grocers, meanwhile, are looking for logistics to fit each stage of the journey. Loblaw is putting the pieces into place to get there.
A Motional vehicle. (Courtesy photo)
Earlier this year, we reported on Uber and Motional’s pilot of autonomous deliveries for Uber Eats customers in California. The Santa Monica deliveries were the first time Hyundai and Aptiv-owned Motional outfitted its vehicles for commercial delivery.
Now, delivery is part of a wider agreement between the companies that is being called the first to include autonmous transportation of both people and products.
Uber and Motional signed a 10-year, multimarket agreement that will allow Motional’s electric robotaxis to be deployed for Uber rides. The companies plan to “strategically” deploy the cars in cities around the US, with the first rides expected to start later this year.
"This agreement will be instrumental to the wide scale adoption of robotaxis," said Karl Iagnemma, President and CEO of Motional, in a statement. "Motional now has unparalleled access to millions of riders and a roadmap to scale significantly over the next ten years. We're proud to partner with Uber to bring both driverless ride-hail and deliveries to life in cities throughout the US."
Alongside ride hailing, the agreement includes provisions for an expansion of AVs in the Uber Eats delivery service. The pilot in California was “well received” by customers, the company said, and has been expanded to service more restaurants.
These agreements are significant, but they don’t mean that autonomous vehicles are here. Nevertheless, the agreements show that companies may believe it will be a matter of when, not if the technology is ready. Ecommerce will be a key area where the vehicles are deployed.
Along with progress, there's a step back to report in autonomous delivery this week. Amazon said it is ending testing for its autonomous home delivery robot, named Scout. Bloomberg reported that the team behind the project is being dismantled amid cust-cutting that is leading to a pullback on experimental projects at the company.
A spokesperson told Bloomberg that Amazon conducted limited field tests of the robots in several suburban areas to create a new delivery experience, but got feedback that parts of the program did not meet customers' needs.
Scout is roughly the size of a cooler, and is designed to stop at a person's front door and pop open, allowing a person to take a package out.
This news is not so much about Scout itself, as it seemed like the product still had lots of work in front of it. Rather, it means that Amazon won't be testing an autonomous robot for delivery, meaning that a company with lots of knowhow in this area and a history of inventing won't be among those working on the challenge. Robots hold out the potential to reduce emissions and help to streamline operations in last-mile delivery, so it is worth considering how they fit into future logistics plans. Plus, Motional will need something to bring a package to a person's door when its car arrives.
Check out the latest marketplace advertising capabilities rolling out for brands.
The retail media landscape is continuing to grow, as more marketplaces stand up networks and add new advertising capabilities for brands seeking to reach consumers while they shop. This week, Instacart is adding new self-serve promotions, while BJ’s is launching the industry's newest retail media network.
Check out more details:
Instacart announced new ad capabilities that are designed to help brands offer more savings to consumers across its grocery marketplace.
Instacart Promotions will provide self-service access to all brands so that they can launch new deal structures, promotions, and incentives with their Instacart Ad campaigns. Currently available in open beta through Instacart Ads manager, this allows emerging and established brands alike to expand their offerings across the marketplace.
The result is that consumers will see more promotions, coupons and deals that are “tailored to them” across the marketplace, Instacart said. The new “savings experience” is set to appear directly on product item cards and before checkout.
Initially, Instacart Promotions will provide two structures for promotions:
Going forward, Instacart plans to add Free Gifts and Buy One, Get One structures, as well. These will help brands run "free sample" programs that help to attract new customers and serve personalized discounts to different customer segments, such as "new to brand" or "new to category."
“With the average cost of groceries going up, we're proud to unlock more ways for consumers to save money and connect with their favorite brands and retailers via Instacart," said Ali Miller, VP of ads product at Instacart, in a statement. "With the launch of our new Instacart Promotions, all of our brand partners now have the ability to set up coupons and promotions that can drive meaningful business results while also passing on more savings opportunities to consumers.”
Instacart said Athletic Brewing, General Mills, Sola Company, and Wells Enterprises (maker of Halo Top) are already pairing Instacart Promotions with ad formats such as Sponsored Product and Display.
"As we look ahead to Dry January, we're adding more coupons to our campaigns so consumers can discover our brews and save as they shop on the Instacart Marketplace," said Dermot Woods, omnichannel marketplace manager at Athletic Brewing.
This is the latest in a series of ad upgrades from Instacart this year, as the company builds out retail media capabilities that bolster its marketplace. CEO Fidji Simo said earlier this year that advertising is the fastest growing part of the business, and boasts high margins compared to grocery delivery.
In recent months, Instacart has:
Instacart Promotions. (Courtesy photo)
BJ’s Wholesale Club just became the latest grocery business to launch a retail media program. The club on Thursday announced the launch of BJ’s Media Edge, which was created with Microsoft PromoteIQ. BJ’s said it wants to provide brands and advertisers with increased capabilities to leverage first party data to reach its 6.5 million members.
“This new program builds upon our existing digital marketing offerings with a customizable solution for brand partners to influence our members at every stage of their purchase journey, all while driving measurable returns,” said Monica Schwartz, EVP and Chief Digital Officer at BJ’s Wholesale Club, in a statement.
The program offers an interface where brands can buy onsite and offsite media, reach members on BJ’s properties and target audience members to influence purchase behavior. Additional offerings include social media extensions and real-time analytics. Closed loop measurement reporting capabilities are also in development.