09 - 11 March, 2020
The InterContinental Berlin
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How MediaMarktSaturn Retail Group is Taking a Leaf from Amazon’s Book to Deliver Great Ecommerce Service
German holdings company MediaMarktSaturn Retail Group is Europe’s leading retailer of technology and electronic goods. The company has more than 1,000 stores to its name, and serves 15 European countries in its retail outlets and via its ecommerce platforms.
Beginning life as two separate corporate entities, Media Markt and Saturn – in 1979 and 1961 respectively – the companies merged into a single group in 1990 and have continued to operate as independent brands, though have gone from strength to strength as a team.
However, the world has changed a great deal since the nineties – especially in the retail business – and companies have had to move with the times to survive. With online behemoths such as Amazon taking up so much of the digital retail space, it can be hard for other retailers to make their voices heard.
In an effort to compete, MediaMarktSaturn Retail Group decided to try something different. Instead of being intimidated by Amazon, they have chosen to use the online retail giant as inspiration. Few companies in the world have the resources to be as experimental as Amazon – nonetheless, MediaMarktSaturn is one technology-driven company that is managing to take a leaf from its book.
The Future of Home Delivery
It was back in 2013 when Amazon announced its intention to offer home delivery in less than 30 minutes with its Amazon Air drone program. Fast forward to 2017, and the project has finally got off the ground, having completed its first successful operation, delivering an Amazon Fire Stick and a bag of popcorn to a customer in Cambridge, UK, within 13 minutes of the order being placed.
The prospect of Amazon being able to facilitate delivery in such a rapid time would understandably be making any online retailer nervous. However, MediaMarktSaturn has decided imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – albeit by keeping its feet firmly on the ground.
And so, beginning with the Media Markt store located in Düsseldorf's Grafental district, MediaMarktSaturn has been testing its own same-day-delivery-by-robot service. In this instance, however, the robot in question is a six-wheeled moon-lander-inspired vehicle developed by Estonian technology startup, and Skype co-founders, Starship Technologies.
“We are delighted that Media Markt is the first company in Germany to put the delivery robot to use with its end customers,” explains Volker Barth, Managing Partner of Media Markt Dusseldorf-Metrostraße, the test partner for the pilot project at MediaMarktSaturn Group. “Thanks to the new housing area Grafental that is located right next to the Media Markt on Metrostraße, we have the perfect conditions for testing the robot under real life conditions together with Starship within a manageable delivery area. We are excited to see how our customers react to the robot and how well it performs in actual use.”
How it Works
To qualify for robot delivery, customers must be inside the Grafental catchment area, the product must be in-stock at the time of ordering, must weigh 10kg or less, and be small enough to fit inside the robot’s storage compartment, and the customer must have entered a mobile phone number when the order was placed. If these conditions are all met, the customer has a good chance of being selected as a test subject for the delivery service.
The item will then be delivered between 30 minutes and four hours from the moment the order is placed – or at a later time specified by the customer. Once the robot arrives at the customer’s address, it contacts them via their mobile phone to let them know to come to the door. The robot also sends a verification text message to the customer’s phone with a code they can use to unlock the storage compartment lid and retrieve their item/s.
The robot is programmed to only use sidewalks and to follow all rules of the road. With nine cameras and ultrasound sensors built into its shell, the bot can detect obstacles and act accordingly. It is even programmed to pull over and allow fellow pedestrians to pass if the sidewalk is too narrow.
“Delivery on the desired date and speed are becoming increasingly important to our delivery process. For this reason, we constantly test new and innovative services that offer our customers the highest possible added value,” said Martin Wild, Chief Digital Officer of MediaMarktSaturn Group. “The delivery robot marks yet another step in our strategy of continually improving the shopping experience with digital innovations and making the customer journey even more appealing to the customer. As with other innovations, we include our customers and employees in pilot projects early on in order to incorporate the first practical experience in the possible further development of each topic.”
Surface to Air
It’s clear MediaMarktSaturn Retail Group aren’t content to simply let Amazon steal all the thunder with robotic delivery methods – though of course, we never know what the ecommerce giant will pull out of its sleeve next. Indeed, if the autonomous rovers turn out to be as cost-efficient as MediaMarktSaturn claim, there’s no reason why Amazon couldn’t unleash its own fleet of similar droids into its supply chain. For now, though, all eyes are on MediaMarktSaturn to see if it can make robot deliveries a success.
The final word goes to Helen Karleep, Head of Testing and Operations at Starship Technologies.
“We look forward to starting with the first deliveries in Dusseldorf together with Media Markt. Our goal is to better understand how our delivery robot can assist people in everyday life. In the long term, we want to become the most popular delivery option for customers of Media Markt, of course.”