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‘Store-hailing’ platform will open Baltimore HQ, with plans to deploy vehicles in 2023

Johanna Alonso//August 29, 2022

‘Store-hailing’ platform will open Baltimore HQ, with plans to deploy vehicles in 2023

By Johanna Alonso

//August 29, 2022

The inside of a snack Robomart, where customers can select chips, sodas and other goodies. (Courtesy of Robomart)

The convenience of ordering food for delivery has become run-of-the-mill for most Marylanders over the past several years. But in just over a year, Baltimoreans may be able to order an entire store to their house. 

Robomart, a technology company based in Santa Monica, California, that calls itself a “store-hailing” platform, is opening its East Coast headquarters in Baltimore. Along with the establishment of the headquarters, the company hopes to begin offering its store-hailing services to the city’s residents in the second half of 2023. 

What is store-hailing? The term refers to Robomart’s model of using a mobile application to summon a vehicle containing a miniature store directly to your home. Then, you can go outside, browse the rows of products and select items to purchase — a faster, more efficient process, Robomart’s CEO and founder Ali Ahmed claims, than traditional delivery. 

“Store-hailing does away with order creation. You’re not ordering anything. It’s not e-commerce. You’re not even selecting items to put in a basket and check out. You’re simply hailing a store, like an Uber or Lyft, and then shopping physically when it arrives,” he said, noting that the time it takes for the Robomart to arrive is also comparable to the time you would wait for a ride-share — generally between five and ten minutes. In total, the average time it took customers to use Robomart, from opening the app to finishing shopping, was just under nine minutes, he said. 

Robomart itself doesn’t supply the products, but instead partners with vendors to distribute their products, just as food delivery apps partner with different restaurants and grocery stores.  

In Robomart’s beta program, conducted in Los Angeles, there were two types of mobile markets; a pharmacy and a snack shop. The beta was successful, Ahmed said, with many of Robomart’s customers shopping with the company’s vehicles multiple times each week. The company has partnered with new companies since then, including two ice cream manufacturers and a few restaurants. 

The headquarters will be located at W Ventures, a venture capital firm, accelerator and workspace in Mount Washington. W Ventures is an investor in Robomart, having invested a six-figure sum in the company last year — the exact amount was undisclosed — according to reporting in at the time. Part of the deal included the stipulation that the company open its east coast headquarters in Baltimore within three years of the investment. 

Ahmed said Baltimore was a good choice for the site of Robomart’s East Coast headquarters due to the city’s emerging technology sector and its central location along the east coast. The company plans a “heavy deployment” over the east coast in the coming years, with vendors in cities like Boston having already expressed interest in working with them. 

But just because the company will run its East Coast headquarters out of Baltimore doesn’t mean that it’s deploying its signature mobile vendors into the city just yet. According to Ahmed, the company intends to begin to roll out Robomarts in Baltimore in the second half of 2023.  

Robomart is already in talks with local companies about possibly partnering to distribute their products around Baltimore via the platform, but it’s too soon to say, yet, what products will be available through the company upon its launch in Baltimore. 

“We try to find merchants within the markets that we are planning to operate in, such as Baltimore. So, we proactively start engaging with who we feel would be ideal merchants on our platform,” Ahmed said. “At the same time, we’ve been very fortunate to have had a ton of inbound (interest), mostly from … national retailers. The best part of that is that they have a national footprint, so as we expand our own footprint of where we can offer Robomart, that’s a very easy lead-in for a lot of them.”


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