- Robomart has officially launched in West Hollywood, California, according to a company announcement, allowing shoppers to hail an automated mobile market with their phone and then select products once it arrives.
- The startup is launching with two models — a snack market offering goods like candy bars, chips and soda; and a pharmacy market that carries shampoo, hand sanitizer, pain relievers and more. Each mobile market carries around 500 packs of 50 everyday products.
- Robomart markets currently have drivers, but the company plans to have fully autonomous vehicles “as regulations allow.” It also plans to launch a grocery market, but didn’t specify a timeline.
Robomart’s commercial launch comes six months after its pilot program went live in West Hollywood, and just under three years after the “store-hailing” startup introduced its prototype van at the Consumer Electronics Show.
It’s hitting the streets at a time when more consumers than ever are using their phones to order food and as convenience delivery services are sweeping into the U.S. with the promise of delivery within minutes. Robomart’s assortment of snacks, over-the-counter meds and other consumables at launch is similar to what players like Gopuff offer, and the startup’s announcement nods to its quick-delivery competitors, noting its mobile markets in West Hollywood will come to customers in less than 10 minutes.
Consumers will likely be intrigued at the prospect of buying snacks and over-the-counter medication from a roving market on wheels. But will they like it enough to use it regularly?
Robomart is taking pains to offer a compelling app experience, allowing shoppers to preview their van’s assortment after they hail it and find the location of the parked vehicle. Robomart says it offers pricing that’s competitive with retail stores, with a $2 “hailing fee” tacked on to each order. There’s no order minimum required.
Robomart also features a buying experience similar to Amazon Go, with a proprietary RFID-based checkout system allowing shoppers to grab items and walk away.
To make sure vans are always stocked with products, Robomart has cameras inside each vehicle to monitor assortment. The vehicles are temperature-controlled, with products replenished several times a day to ensure there are no out-of-stocks and that products “are never out for long,” according to the company’s website. If a van is out of a certain product, it won’t go out for deliveries until it's fully restocked.
Robomart said it has partnered with Reef Technology to manage product stocking, labeling and replenishment. Miami-based Reef operates more than 4,800 micro-distribution centers and kitchens across the country. Its Light Speed grocery division will be the initial merchant for Robomart's mobile markets.
The Grocery Robomart, which is currently under development, will include fresh fruits and vegetables, along with other refrigerated items. Additionally, Pantry, Deli and Café Robomarts are expected to roll out in the coming months, the company said in its announcement.