America’s Largest Grocery Chain Is Testing an Innovative Self-Service Feature

Why should fast-food chains have all the fun when it comes to cutting-edge tech innovations? While Flippy, Chippy, and Sippy will be cooking your burgers and pouring your drinks, among other things, there’s now a new piece of technology that will streamline your grocery shopping experience. In particular, your online grocery shopping at America’s largest grocery chain.

On September 19, BrightDrop, a subsidiary of General Motors, announced that Kroger will be the first retailer to roll out the company’s new electric, temperature-controlled eCarts for curbside pickup orders.

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According to BrightDrop, the eCarts—called Trace Grocery—are designed to help «streamline order fulfillment and pickup for online grocery purchases.» The new technology will allow store associates to place orders directly into the carts and park them outside for customers, who can then open the drawers with a digital verification code. Pretty adorable, right?

The eCarts, which will debut at Kroger stores later this year, include nine compartments that separate grocery items by order, temperature, and product type. Other features include temperature management technology that allows food to be stored for up to four hours, propulsion assistance that helps workers move up to 350 pounds of groceries with less physical strain, and auto-braking to stop the electric motor, which matches an operator’s walking speed of up to three miles per hour.

BrightDrop Trace Grocery eCart
Courtesy of BrightDrop

​​»COVID has driven a dramatic increase in online grocery shopping, and fulfilling these orders profitably has become a major challenge for retailers of all sizes. With the Trace Grocery, we saw an opportunity to help companies like Kroger tackle these challenges head on,» said Travis Katz, BrightDrop’s president and CEO, in a statement. «As online shopping continues to grow, BrightDrop is committed to developing innovative solutions to help our customers keep pace. The Trace Grocery is a perfect example of this.»

The Trace Grocery eCarts were initially piloted at Kroger stores in Lexington and Versailles, Ky., where the grocery chain «experienced a noticeable improvement in the customer and associate experience.» By 2024, BrightDrop expects full-scale availability of the technology, with advanced customizable capabilities planned for the future.

The eCarts aren’t the only new pieces of technology that Kroger has unveiled in stores. Last month, the grocery giant revealed that it will be expanding its new belted self-checkout lanes to 20 Cincinnati-area stores this fall.

Unlike the old, smaller self-checkout lanes, which will still be available in stores, the new lanes will consist of full rolling belts just like the ones cashiers use. Additionally, a bagger will be present to help pack up customers’ groceries.

Brianna Ruback

Brianna is the Editorial Assistant at Eat This, Not That! She attended Ithaca College, where she graduated with a degree in Journalism and a minor in Communication Studies. Read more about Brianna
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