The Co-op Group has allowed one of its stores to be used in a trial of robot home deliveries by Starship Technologies.
The retailer agreed to let Starship test the around ten of the devices from its store in Monkston, near Milton Keynes, and more than 1,000 orders have been dispatched in the first month of the trial, which is still ongoing.
Starship’s six-wheeled drones can carry items, like groceries or packages, within a two-mile radius. The devices, half a meter high, take around 15 minutes to reach customers.
In the trial, the devices – which has a cooler compartment packed by store workers – are delivering around 200 different products. Customers pay the usual in-store price plus £1 for the delivery which goes to Starship.
The robots use GPS technology to find addresses, where shoppers open the compartment using a code sent to their smartphone.
Chris Conway, head of food digital at the Co-op Group, said: “Retailers need to be innovative and agile in their operations, and the Co-op is committed to exploring new technologies and seeking new ways to innovate, getting closer to the needs of our members and customers – what they want, when they need it and creating increased consumer choice and convenience – and we have agreed to take part in a limited robot trial for delivering goods.”
One of the selling points of the technology is that it reduces carbon emissions, replacing short, fossil-fuelled vehicle journeys with battery-powered transit.
And although the device may not look secure, if thieves attack, it can photograph them and alert operators, who can send police to the drone’s location.
Starship has also trialled the robot with JustEat outlets, as well as with businesses in Germany and the USA, and is now looking to test it on university campuses.
Meanwhile the Co-op Group is rolling out a new hand-held smart-terminal to simplify tasks such as inventory management, stock control, deliveries and gap scanning – with further phases of the roll-out to include cash and task management capability.
The new touch screen technology, developed with colleagues, has also been created to incorporate other Co-op retail innovations such as “Shifts” – which launched in April and saw over 10,000 colleagues sign-up in 48 hours to manage their work patterns digitally.
Dave Robertson, the Group’s head of retail IT service and operations, said: “We are listening to feedback from our colleagues and working to simplify our processes to make sure we only focus on those things that have a real benefit – by developing new technologies and capabilities we can continue to ensure the Co-op is more competitive, relevant and innovative.”
New developments also include the roll-out of digital headsets to connect colleagues. It is hopes this will help deter retail crime, enhance safety and security, and improve customer satisfaction, by allowing colleagues to more quickly carry out tasks such as responding to customer enquiries, opening checkouts and responding to spillages.
In addition, the Group unveiled its Pay in Aisle App technology in March – a UK-first designed to enhance consumer choice and convenience giving time-pressed shoppers the opportunity to pay in the aisle with their own phone through an innovative, easy to use App, built with Mastercard’s secure digital payments expertise.
The phase one pilot, live test environment, took place in two stores – North Baddesley in Eastleigh, near Southampton and, the Co-op in the Green Quarter, Manchester.
Technical trials continue, with roll-out across the Group’s estate to commence later this year.