A pilot program between 1-800-Flowers and Starship Technologies is taking bouquets to moms using autonomous droids.

More than two-thirds (68.5%) of consumers plan to buy flowers for Mother’s Day on Sunday, a National Retail Federation survey finds, but just a fraction will have those posies delivered via robot.

1-800-Flowers uses robots to deliver flowers

The Starship Technologies droid rolls toward a home in Sunnyvale, Calif., to deliver Mother’s Day gifts.

1-800-Flowers.com Inc. and Starship Technologies are running a pilot program to deliver the e-retailer’s bouquets and other gifts this week to a few mothers in Sunnyvale, Calif. A video of a delivery can be seen here.

Based on the first deliveries this week, the companies are “working through the logistics and details in terms of the number of robotic deliveries,” a 1-800-Flowers spokeswoman says.

Starship’s robots, which can travel up to 2 miles, need to learn and map out the areas for deliveries to be autonomous, and they are accompanied by a human handler during this pilot program, the spokeswoman says. The companies did not state how many deliveries were being made in the run-up to Mother’s Day or release additional details about the pilot project’s development.

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Starship Technologies, based in London, is building a fleet of self-driving robots to deliver packages, groceries, food and now floral and gifts.

Starship Technologies, which has its engineering research and development office in Tallinn, Estonia, in July said U.K.-based food delivery services Just Eat Plc and Pronto Technology Inc. would use its six-wheeled droids to deliver orders to customers in London, and German retail chain Metro AG and logistics firm Hermes Group would test the vehicles in Germany and Switzerland. The arrangement with 1-800-Flowers.com is the first time Starship’s robots will deliver items to a gift recipient instead of to the customer who placed the order, the 1-800-Flowers spokeswoman says.

1-800-Flowers, No. 59 in the Internet Retailer 2017 Top 500, frequently tests new technologies.

In April 2016 it rolled out the ability for consumers to order from its site by using voice commands via Alexa, Amazon.com Inc.’s voice-based search program that runs on its Echo speaker devices. To order using Alexa, a consumer must have an account with 1-800-Flowers and have payment information and the recipient’s address on file with the retailer. A consumer who enables the skill within the Alexa app must sign into a 1-800-Flowers account. This links the account with Alexa so Alexa can relay the order information to 1-800-Flowers in the future. Amazon is No. 1 in the Top 500.

The floral and gifts e-retailer in March of last year began allowing customers to order through Facebook Inc.’s Messenger mobile messaging app, which applies interactive software that uses artificial intelligence to simulate human conversation.

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In addition to flowers, popular Mother’s Day gifts include greeting cards (77.9%), apparel/accessories (36.9%) and jewelry (35.5%), according to the National Retail Federation, which used Prosper Insights to survey more than 7,400 U.S. shoppers from April 4-11.

Almost a third (30.0%) of shoppers plan to shop online for Mother’s Day, up from 27.3% in 2016, the NRF says.

 

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