Shipt CEO Says Company Not Interested in Robots

Shipt’s CEO, Kelly Caruso told audiences at the Smart Kitchen Summit today that her company is not interested in implementing robot or drone technology.

“Shipt will use technology in order drive efficiency,” Caruso said, “But that technology will be more in line with machine learning, AI and VR,” as opposed to something like drone.

Caruso continued by saying that Shipt, which is an independent unit of Target, was not going to replace their human shoppers (the gig workers who go into stores and make the deliveries). “They are critical to our success,” Caruso said.

That Shipt is focused on its human workforce is not that surprising, given that just last week the company announced it was adding an additional 100,000 shoppers to its ranks in time for the holidays. The additional headcount will bring the total number of Shipt Shoppers to 300,000.

It’s also not too surprising that Shipt will rely more on people than robots, at least for right now. While the pandemic has accelerated the desire for contactless technologies, autonomous delivery robots like those from Nuro and Starship are still in their infancy. There also remain a number of regulatory and technological hurdles that need to be overcome.

What we should keep an eye on is whether Shipt’s parent company, Target, adopts some sort of robot-powered automation to fulfill e-commerce orders. Target is a bit different from other grocery retailers because it sells so much more than foods. In other words, a micro-fulifllment center using totes and rails in the backroom of a Target can’t exactly grab a bunch of bananas and a patio furniture set.

Having said that, Shipt works with a number of different retailers, grocery and otherwise. As grocery e-commerce continues to grow into a projected $250 billion sector, both retailers and Shipt will adapt to serve customers’ evolving needs.

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