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Grocery delivery still needs a human touch

stop and shop self driving grocery
Stop & Shop shared this photo announcing its new driverless grocery pilot. Two analysts say choosing fresh produce is an “experiential purchase” that most consumers prefer to do themselves.

Am I the only one who thinks picking my produce from a driverless car is an absurd – and unnecessary – advancement in technology?

When I saw the latest driverless grocery delivery mock-up from Quincy, MA-based Stop & Shop, I audibly snorted. It’s a good thing I work from a home office.

San Francisco-based Robomart Inc. has a fun looking “fruit cart on wheels” vision that shows these tiny cars with a small selection of fresh produce hidden under futuristic top hinge doors.

It’s a hoot.

It’s also completely ridiculous.

It reminds me of a clarification I heard once of practicable vs. practical.

“While it would be practicable to ride a hot air balloon to school, it would not be practical.”

While it is practicable to pick your produce from a small selection driven by a robot car, it is not in any way, shape, or form practical.

Kroger and Walmart are both piloting driverless vehicles for grocery delivery, but those look to be fully picked and packed online orders.

Consumers don’t want an edited selection of the greatest hits available to them in small quantities to choose while they stand on the sidewalk in their pajamas, or on their lunch break at the office.

Their problem with ordering groceries online stems from the fact that they can’t choose fresh foods hands-on. Curating a selection doesn’t solve this and doesn’t make it any more logistically sound.

These mock-ups are meant to stir emotions about the fruit carts of yore, but we’re not going back to that.

To gain consumer trust, online grocery must deliver (pun intended) on the promise of fresh foods picked just the way a consumer would in-store.

Every retailer fulfilling online orders should be bragging on the people who are doing the picking. We need to know who they are, so we can build a relationship and trust them.

We need more faces, not fewer, to make fresh groceries online work.


Pamela Riemenschneider is the Retail Editor for Blue Book Services.