Solutions & Innovations: Delivery with Robomart and Uber Connect

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04/05/2022
​​​​​​​A roundup of technology-driven tools that drive consumer understanding, engagement and conversion on every step of the path to purchase.
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In early February, the makers of Too Good To Go, a marketplace app for surplus food, announced partnerships with several U.S. instant-delivery grocers, including JOKR, Gorillas, REEF Technology’s Lightspeed Market and Food Rocket. Copenhagen, Denmark-based Too Good To Go says its platform is being used by 7,000 food businesses in 12 U.S. cities, including New York; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; San Francisco; and Austin, Texas. The app connects shoppers with businesses — bakers, butchers, restaurants, grocers, etc. — that have surplus food, turning potential waste into meals at a reasonable price. The service is available in 17 international markets (mainly large European cities), and the app has an estimated 50 million downloads to date, the company says.

 

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With supply-chain issues and omicron adding to shipping uncertainties, Uber announced in December new features for its Uber Connect same-day, local-delivery service. Uber Connect, which launched in April 2020, expanded its availability to 6,000 U.S. cities and now offers real-time local tracking of any “legitimate and legal” package as long as it “fits in the trunk of a midsize car.” (The legit/legal clause means no booze, guns, stolen goods, animals, money, illegal drugs or other dodgy things not allowed by law.) A new feature is a “Meet at your door” pickup/drop-off option that loosens a previous COVID-safe-spacing, curbside-only limitation. Also, users can now text special instructions to their driver, such as, “This package contains antique ornaments that are very fragile.”

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In January, Santa Monica, California-based Robomart announced that the company was issued patent #11227270 for the “one-tap store-hailing and seamless checkout-free technology” that is used in its delivery service, billed as “the first store that comes to you.” Robomart operates a fleet of on-demand, mobile mini-marts in six specialties: grocery, snacks, pharmacy, cafe, ice cream and fast food. A shopper armed with the company’s proprietary app can hail a Robomart to their location. When it arrives, the shopper simply swipes across the app to open the vehicle’s door. At this point, the shopper has access to an RFID-based, checkout-free system, and after picking whatever items are desired, simply walks away.

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Might a culling of shopping apps be in the near future? In March, General Motors began winding down its Marketplace app, an onboard tool launched in 2017 that lets drivers buy things through their dashboard’s infotainment system. GM did not say why it was discontinuing the app, which had been placed in millions of vehicles. Media reports quoted an anonymous GM engineer who revealed that active user rates were in the mere “thousands.” The Marketplace app had an ambitious roster of brand partners offering dashboard access to gas (Shell, ExxonMobil), merchandise (Delivery.com) food (Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Wingstop, TGI Fridays, Applebee’s, IHOP), and services like Priceline.com and Parkopedia.

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Seoul, South Korea-based LG Display recently introduced its newest “transparent OLED solutions.” One of the introductions was for the “Shopping Managing Showcase,” a transparent monitor inside a wooden display stand that positions animations, information and other graphics in front of merchandise. A second, related concept is the “Show Window,” which combines four 55-inch transparent OLED displays in a massive advertising screen best suited, presumably, for store windows. The technology can also be used for video-conferencing, presentations and entertainment.

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In the fall of 2021, Kuick, a live shopping app, launched “Kuick Clips” — a way for brands to upload short videos of their products and make them available for purchase. Calling it “Tinder” for shoppable video, users can swipe right if they want to buy and swipe left to just see another product. The 30- to 90-second “live selling” videos are said to give more details about a product than the standard set of pictures typically used on e-commerce websites. Miami-based Kuick was founded in 2020, serves both North and South America, and also has offices in Santiago, Chile.

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London-based Marks & Spencer (M&S) launched an augmented reality (AR) shopping app called “List & Go” in January. The app, which was developed for M&S by Dent Reality, can be used to navigate aisles and, through an AR filter on a smartphone camera, indicate fairly precisely where specific items are located on shelves. Using a live shopping-list-management feature, the app organizes the day’s trip. Users are instructed to follow the blue dots and turn-by-turn directions on the screen, which (it is claimed) map the fastest route to each item. List & Go relies on a scalable indoor mapping system and indoor-positioning technology.

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Confused by the “metaverse,” the conceptual network of 3-D/virtual worlds awash in non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and cryptocurrencies? You’re not alone, which is why in late January, Chicago/London-based Eyekandy, an AR provider, launched the “MetaStore service” for retailers and brands. Eyekandy is positioning the MetaStore as a way for businesses to deploy custom stores and sales campaigns in the metaverse to sell digital goods, such as NFTs, and do it without getting bogged down doing test-and-learns on “all things metaverse.”

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Columbia, Maryland-based Merkle unveiled two patent-pending, contactless-shopping products in January. The first, called “Scan & Know,” uses product-recognition technology that lets in-store shoppers scan any item from their mobile device. They can instantly access product details and prices, add items to their wish lists or a gift registry, and arrange shipment direct to their homes. Scan & Know is said to integrate into existing websites as well as major e-commerce platforms, such as Salesforce Commerce Cloud and Shopify. The second product, called “UnboxIt,” uses QR codes placed onto and inside of delivery packages to engage with shoppers once items arrive at their homes. Using a mobile device, shoppers can access instructions, customer-support services, product registration and brand-engagement offers.

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In January, Tokinomo — an interactive in-store brand activation startup — raised a total of $1.7 million to further its global expansion. The company, which is based in New York and Bucharest, Romania, builds and distributes a sensor-controlled robotic P-O-P display for CPG products in grocery stores in more than 40 countries. Last fall, a viral video out of Bolivia for Nestle’s Maggi soup showed Tokinomo in action; a “singing soup pot” endcap used a motion-activated Tokinomo mechanism to rhythmically lift a pot lid in sync with music and vocals. The company claims sales lifts of more than 200% on average.

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Here’s a concept to keep tabs on — “Nutrition as a Service” or NaaS. In December, Seoul, South Korea-based Algocare announced that its NaaS device was named a Consumer Electronics Show Innovation Award Honoree for 2022 in the home appliances and smart home categories. According to the company, after a user fills out a lifestyle and medical history questionnaire on the app, Algocare’s algorithm devises a nutritional supplement that is dispensed through a home appliance called the Nutrition Engine. The user then enters more data every day about various lifestyle factors (where they live, what they’re doing, the weather, etc.) which enables the device to update and alter the daily nutritional dosage. It’s pretty easy to envision a device like this becoming a feature in future grocery shopping apps.

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