Walmart joins Kroger in Nuro test

Dan Ochwat
Executive Editor
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The Nuro autonomous vehicle with Walmart

With Walmart and Kroger both now testing the Nuro driverless car in the Houston area, perhaps Nuro should be looked at as a leader of not only just autonomous cars and vans, but other autonomous delivery tactics in general. These are two American retailing giants, and I can only imagine what insights Nuro will be able to glean from partnering with both retailers to improve and further the service. 

For private brands, it’s an important watch, because the more efficient online delivery gets, the more private brands could potentially grow. Some experts believe as shoppers build out shopping lists for online grocery delivery, private brands through their value and lower cost can snag important spots on that shopping list, and once online, shoppers generally just reorder that same shopping list for delivery. It’s a real threat to national brands. 

Getting out in front of the autonomous delivery space also perhaps means thinking about how private brand packaging should be reconfigured for an autonomous delivery vehicle, perhaps a drone delivery or even a last-mile robot, because all of those technologies may have an impact in the future.

In a recent feature that I wrote for a partner publication — Path to Purchase IQ — about autonomous delivery vehicles, experts interviewed felt as if autonomous cars would be the toughest for retailers to pull off, based on some high-profile car crashes that occurred, the infrastructure required to support autonomous cars, and government regulation limitations; however, perhaps Walmart has a better idea.  

In the autonomous delivery vehicle space, Walmart has tested with just about everybody, so it clearly sees a future here. The retailer has run a partnership with other autonomous delivery vehicles such as Udelv (and its autonomous van), Waymo (to pick up people at Walmart and speed up BOPIS orders), Ford (in conjunction with Postmates) and Gatik (using trucks for fulfillment between stores). 

Walmart, in general, continues to expand its Grocery Pickup and Delivery service, currently with nearly 3,100 pickup locations, and deliveries from more than 1,600 stores.

"Our unparalleled size and scale have allowed us to steer grocery delivery to the front doors of millions of families – and design a roadmap for the future of the industry. Along the way, we’ve been test-driving a number of different options for getting groceries from our stores to our customers’ front doors through self-driving technology," wrote Tom Ward, SVP, digital operations for Walmart U.S. in a blog post announcing the Nuro test. "We believe this technology is a natural extension of our Grocery Pickup and Delivery service and our goal of making every day a little easier for customers."

Indeed, the goal for autonomous delivery in any fashion is about upping the convenience of delivery for shoppers. Whether autonomous cars truly end up leading the way over drones or last-mile robots, we shall see. At the same time, it’s likely all three could play a role, each serving different delivery types. Drones seem to be leading in medical delivery or could be used to send inventory from one store to another. Maybe autonomous cars handle larger stock-up grocery orders, and last-mile robots can be leaders in same-day e-commerce orders. 

Be it in the air, on the road or on the sidewalk, it’s going to be fun to watch. Checkout the autonomous delivery feature to learn more about different types of autonomous delivery. Look into the Path to Purchase Institute for more as well.


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