Alphabot makes it possible to solve the most challenging problem in food retail today, which is how to combine physical stores and online retail profitably, because it is the first and only automated each-picking technology specifically designed to be deployed into stores to pick orders for customers. With Alphabot, a new kind of supermarket is possible, which we call Novastore and is illustrated in the animation shown above. 

The store shown here is 45 feet high, has two floors, and occupies a footprint of only 17,000 square feet, but will have the product assortment of a conventional self-service supermarket with a store footprint and parking area three or four times as large. On the first floor is a self-service fresh market, with no checkout lanes and no center store as we know it. All packaged goods are ordered by customers electronically either in the store or remotely, and these orders are picked by an Alphabot system operating on the upper floor. Customers have the option of ordering fresh goods online if they wish, or they can select their own fresh items in the store. For many customers—especially those who love to cook—shopping for fresh food is “experiential retail” that they enjoy—especially if the store is a stimulating and exciting place and they can be in and out in 10 or 15 minutes with no checkout. Part of the beauty of the Novastore format is that it will satisfy those shoppers who prefer to pick their own fresh goods, and those who prefer not to. The robots do all of the picking that the customers do not actually want to do themselves.

While this animation shows a greenfield store specifically designed for this format, we believe that almost all existing supermarkets of average size or larger can be converted to a Novastore, with no reduction in assortment or sales volume, simply by installing an Alphabot system within the same or smaller space currently occupied by the center store. Alphabot is the first and only automation solution that can meet all requirements of the Novastore application: very low capital cost, extremely high reliability and availability, order-completion times in single-digit minutes, extreme space efficiency for both storage and picking transactions, and the ability to support ambient, chilled, and frozen product-storage. There is a beautiful simplicity in the fact that the bots are the only moving part in the system, and if one bot stops, the rest keep working around it so that customers get their orders, unlike systems with conveyors and lifts and multiple failure points. These robots will even be able to deliver customer orders to curbside for pick-up by the customer or a delivery driver.

When these supermarkets appear, they will represent a dramatic upgrade for both customers and retailers. For customers, these stores will save most of the time and stress associated with food shopping, and in so doing will significantly improve their lives. For retailers, these stores will be far more effective and efficient to operate, even compared to self-service stores. Indeed, when the first Novastore goes into operation, it will herald the dawn of a new era in the evolution of retail.