Covid-19: Co-op expands robot delivery service after seeing demand double

Co-op is expanding robot deliveries after seeing a doubling in demand for this service during the Covid-19 pandemic. The grocer said the robo-shopping technology, which has been especially popular among vulnerable and self-isolating people in recent months, will be made available to further communities in Milton Keynes and the surrounding areas.

Co-op first trialled autonomous same-day robot deliveries in the UK back in April 2018, working in conjunction with Starship Technologies, which created the technology. It has since been made available across eight Co-op stores, six of which were added since March this year as the retailer sought to increase its online delivery capacity during the Covid-19 crisis.

As well as the number of robot deliveries doubling since lockdown restrictions were introduced in the UK, Co-op said the value of transactions had increased four-fold as a result of changing consumer habits. It added that while the expansion of the service was originally intended to offer additional choice, ease and convenience for shoppers, it has become a “lifeline” for vulnerable and self-isolating customers.

It has also increased the range of products available through robot delivery to around 1,000.

Jason Perry, head of online development at Co-op, commented: “Quality, ease and convenience is at the core of our approach and we continue to innovate and expand access to our products online in order to offer greater flexibility and choice to meet consumer needs in our communities.”

During the Covid-19 lockdown, Starship has waived the delivery charge for NHS workers receiving items via this method, and has additionally programmed the robots to pause at 8pm on Thursdays to “clap and cheer” carers and key workers.

The Co-op has been taking a number of steps recently to increase its eCommerce capacity. Last month, it announced a new partnership with Buymie to provide same-day home grocery deliveries to 200,000 households across the Bristol area.

Other retailers, including Tesco, have also trialled Starship’s robot technology to supply customers in recent years.