- Albertsons has installed an automated pickup kiosk at a Jewel-Osco store in Chicago, the grocer announced Thursday, and plans to install another kiosk at a Safeway store in San Francisco in the near future.
- The kiosks, which are manufactured by Estonia-based Cleveron, hold products in two temperature zones — regular and deep freeze. Shoppers designate a two-hour pickup window when ordering and then scan a code at the machine when they arrive to receive their groceries.
- The latest move furthers the grocery company’s efforts to expand its click-and-collect offerings, especially self-serve pickup, as online demand remains high. In October, Albertsons began testing pickup lockers at several Jewel-Osco stores in Chicago.
Albertsons’ investments in piloting pickup lockers and kiosks highlights the growing importance of technology and innovation as the grocer's digital strategy evolves.
Chris Rupp, executive vice president and chief customer and digital officer at Albertsons, said that the company turned to Cleveron’s kiosks to appeal to boost convenience in what's become a very popular service. According to Cleveron, it takes shoppers on average 50 seconds to retrieve their order from the new automated kiosks, which are akin to an ATM for groceries. Each kiosk holds up to 120 crates of orders, said Andrew Whelan, a spokesperson for Albertsons, who noted the Jewel-Osco store in Chicago began using the machine in December.
"We are supercharging our digital and omnichannel offerings to serve customers however they want, whenever they want," Rupp said in a statement.
Cleveron’s 501 model grocery kiosks are in use by several international grocers, including Woolworths in Australia, Coop in Estonia and Salling/Bilka in Denmark. Cleveron remotely monitors and services its kiosks from Estonia and, for the Jewel-Osco location in Chicago, offers on-site support provided by technology firm Telaid, said Edith Väli, chief of sales and marketing for Cleveron.
In October, Albertsons announced plans to install temperature-controlled pickup lockers from Durham, North Carolina-based Bell and Howell at select Jewel-Osco locations in Chicago and Safeway stores in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Cleveron kiosk is at a Jewel-Osco location that does not have a Bell and Howell locker, Whelan noted.
David Bishop, partner at Brick Meets Click, wrote in an email that testing multiple solutions helps retailers learn how to leverage new technology across their stores.
“The advantages of the 501 unit are it has more capacity than the locker solution and is better suited for in-parking lot placement, i.e., decreasing the distance between the pickup parking spot and the robotic unit,” he said. “However, it is a significant investment compared to either lockers or the store-member-assisted pickup models.”
For grocers looking to expand their pickup options, locker and kiosk solutions offer added flexibility and a contactless solution for customers. Hy-Vee started using pickup lockers prior to the pandemic and has continued to expand the program.
Pickup lockers also resolve a problem plaguing curbside pickup: wait times. “This [issue] is largely due to the slow adoption of various geolocation technologies that help automate and expedite the pickup process,” Bishop said. “So, lockers are one solution to the wait time problem that simultaneously reduces demands for store labor to be positioned and ready to serve a pickup customer.”
Albertsons' announcement comes as the company tries to establish itself as an e-commerce leader. It's expanding its Drive Up & Go pickup service to 1,400 stores — up from 600 in April — by the end of the fiscal year. The grocer has also been pivoting away from using its own delivery fleet in numerous markets and said it will turn to third-party companies instead.