Last-mile delivery bot company shifts gears to focus on mobile selling potential
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Amid growing talk from the understaffed retail industry about what robots can lend, a company is weighing what it could to sell.
Robot company Tortoise today introduced Mobile Smart Stores, which are essentially what they sound like: vending machine containers with a touchscreen checkout carried by its robots.
- The company, founded in 2019, previously focused on last mile deliverybut is now turning to using its robots to sell its products themselves.
The technology will debut with 18 retail partners, like Colorado grocer Choice Market and Los Angeles-based chocolate maker Lady Chocolatt, all going live in the next quarter, said the president and co-founder of Tortoise, Dmitry Shevelenko, at Retail Brew.
The vending machines meet retailers’ “existential need for growth” – difficult to meet lately due to labor shortages – by providing new sales channels, Shevelenko said.
Mobile stores don’t sell staples like SunChips and Diet Coke, but rather higher-end retailer SKUs like a $35 baking box, or even a $300 pair of headphones, Shevelenko said. And from anywhere: parked in front of the stores, down the block, or at the local park.
- Tortoise manages the machines through a “remote store clerk” who monitors any “unpredictable” behavior.
- There’s a Bluetooth locking mechanism, along with branded packaging to display products inside and customizable sound to guide shoppers through checkout.
Adding: Tortoise began testing the technology late last year (which required only one change to its shipping configuration – the addition of an NFC reader to enable contactless payment) after noticed that consumers often assumed they could buy something from his robots during deliveries, Shevelenko said.
- Mobile stores generated 25 times the typical hourly revenue of a vending machine, per turtle, with Asian-American bakery Bake Sum generating $100/hour in sales by placing it outside the store for three hours after it closed and bringing it to local parks.
The company doesn’t charge for software or hardware, but keeps 10% of gross sales, Shevelenko noted, which can be especially beneficial for small businesses.
“[Small merchants] need additional sales,” he said. “It’s a marketing engine; it attracts that foot traffic and better monetizes it for them. So we see this as something that allows local businesses to thrive and hire more employees. »-THIS