SCI-FI SHOP­PING

BBC Good Food - - Opinion - Just Eat has al­ready com­pleted 1,000 un­manned take­away de­liv­er­ies

That Bri­tish in­sti­tu­tion, the weekly big shop, is wob­bling as we en­ter a world of on­line voice-or­der­ing, in­stant ro­bot de­liv­ery and mo­bile shops with holo­graphic staff.

Pic­ture this: 6pm, Wed­nes­day. On the train after work, you open your kitchen app. You tap the fridge icon and a list of its con­tents ap­pears. In a ‘sug­gested recipe’ box you can see you have 85% of the in­gre­di­ents for lasagne, but the app, also con­nected to your smart cup­boards, knows you're out of pasta sheets. It asks if you want to buy them from your usual on­line su­per­mar­ket?

You add a bot­tle of wine to the or­der, tap ‘de­liver now’ and, im­me­di­ately, your su­per­mar­ket dispatches the items by drone.

An hour later, you ar­rive home and your shop­ping is wait­ing in a se­cure doorstep de­liv­ery box.

Is this the fu­ture? Broadly, yes. Though drones may not take-off. The lo­gis­tics are com­plex. But sev­eral su­per­mar­kets al­ready of­fer one-hour de­liv­ery within Lon­don, where – us­ing Star­ship Tech­nolo­gies’ self-driv­ing, app-ac­cessed ro­bot de­liv­ery ve­hi­cle – Just Eat has al­ready com­pleted over 1,000 un­manned take­away de­liv­er­ies. Like­wise, Tesco is tri­alling ro­bot-de­liv­ery and Ocado driver­less vans. ‘It’ll be here faster than we think,’ says Craig Wills. Re­tail­ers are com­pet­ing fu­ri­ously to of­fer us a has­sle-free shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence. Hence Ama­zon’s Dash but­tons: branded, Wifi-con­nected but­tons through which you can re­order prod­ucts with one touch. They may be gim­micky (‘How many but­tons do you want clut­ter­ing your home?’ asks Emma Wein­bren from re­tail mag­a­zine, The Gro­cer), but other in­no­va­tions, such as in­tel­li­gent voice-or­der­ing – the abil­ity to com­pile a list for de­liv­ery via Ama­zon’s Alexa or Google As­sis­tant – will likely be huge. Ocado re­cently launched a UK voice ser­vice with Ama­zon. This does not mean shops will dis­ap­pear.

We food­ies, for in­stance, may al­ways pre­fer to browse for fresh in­gre­di­ents.

But shops will look dif­fer­ent. For­get self-ser­vice tills. Op­er­a­tors are ex­per­i­ment­ing with mo­bile, un­manned stores (Shang­hai’s Moby Mart, Seat­tle’s Ama­zon Go), where, us­ing cam­eras, sen­sors and phone apps, reg­is­tered users can shop and just walk out, pay­ing au­to­mat­i­cally. No check-outs. No queues. Just a holo­graphic shop as­sis­tant at the door. Change will be both rad­i­cal and grad­ual, says Wein­bren: ‘Ama­zon shouldn’t be un­der­es­ti­mated but, re­al­is­ti­cally, I can’t see it sur­pass­ing the UK’S big four su­per­mar­kets in the next decade. In­ter­est­ingly, Ocado has said it won’t re­place driv­ers al­to­gether. Peo­ple value the ser­vice they pro­vide.’

Ro­bot food shop­ping de­liv­er­ies are the fu­ture

Ama­zon has been tri­alling drone de­liv­er­ies in the UK for a year

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