General Motors unit BrightDrop is expanding its business and product portfolio with the Trace Grocery, the company's first product purpose-built for online grocery and retail order fulfillment.

Designed to help streamline order fulfillment and pickup for online grocery purchases, the new temperature-controlled electric cart is said "to provide retailers the efficiency and cost-savings benefits their businesses need, and the shopper the convenience and flexibility they expect from online grocery services."

The eCart allows grocery industry employees to put orders directly into the unit before stationing it curbside for customer retrieval. The customer gains access to the products after a digital verification, with the Trace Grocery being compatible with most grocers' existing online fulfillment apps.

BrightDrop says the eCart's ability to easily move inside and outside of a store, while providing access to customers without an employee present, allows grocers to explore new ways to get products closer to shoppers' doorsteps.

Kroger, America's largest grocer, will become the first customer to introduce the BrightDrop Trace Grocery into its e-commerce operations, beginning this year.

Gallery: BrightDrop Trace Grocery

"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. 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."

BrightDrop President and CEO Travis Katz

Built on the BrightDrop Trace Platform originally designed for last-mile fulfillment, the Trace Grocery has gone through several rapid prototype builds, market research and customer pilot programs (with Kroger) over the past year. 

These insights led to the development, testing, refinement and now commercialization of the Trace Grocery. Among the features and benefits of the eCart, the General Motors subsidiary lists the propulsion assistance to move up to 350 pounds (158 kilograms) of groceries, auto-braking to stop the electric motor that matches an operator's walking speed up to 3 mph (5 km/h), and weatherproofing to handle variable temperatures and outdoor elements with ease.

In addition, the Trace Grocery features a temperature management system to store items at food-safe temperatures for up to four hours, nine compartments to segment items by order, temperature and product type for optimized pickups, and flexibility to easily maneuver inside and outside of a grocer's store.

The BrightDrop Trace Platform, including Trace Grocery, is available today, but full-scale availability of the Trace Grocery is expected in 2024, with advanced customizable capabilities planned for future release.

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