The Rise of Cargo

By 
Jackson Lewis, Associate Editor

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NEW YORK -- Cargo, an in-car vending machine provider for ride-hailing services, recently secured an additional $22 million in Series A financing, but this is just the latest in a series of milestones marking Cargo’s steady growth.

To sell items with New York-based Cargo, participating ride-hailing drivers install a small vending machine on top of the center console between the car’s two front seats. This box contains anything from energy drinks and snacks to hangover cures and USB cords.

Drivers receive $1 per order—it was originally 50 cents—and a 25% commission on retail sales. Passengers can purchase items from the box by scanning a QR code or Snapcode, or by visiting cargo.menu on their mobile device to shop. The driver then hands the passenger the purchased items when it is safe to do so.

Since its launch in July 2017, Cargo has put more than 12,000 of its in-car vending machines in ride-hailing vehicles around the country. Cargo claims this means it has more unique “stores” in North America than 7-Eleven, but a center-console vending machine does not a store make.

Semantics aside, the comparison makes it clear that Cargo is attempting to compete directly with c-store breakfast and snack destinations such as 7-Eleven. Click through for more on Cargo’s growth and what it means for convenience retail …

Photograph courtesy of Cargo

New markets

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Cargo was only in New York, Boston and Chicago by the beginning of August 2017. It is now in 10 cities, and the company approached each new market differently than the last.

For instance, Cargo offered passengers complimentary smoothie bowls, organic coffee shots and protein bars during its launch in the Dallas market in May 2018. One month later in June, Cargo launched its service in Los Angeles, where passengers could receive complimentary energy drinks and protein bars during launch.

Photograph courtesy of Cargo
 

Partnerships

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Cargo partnered with various brands to supply complimentary products in new markets. For instance, it partnered with Forto coffee to offer the coffee shots in Dallas and with RxBar for the complimentary protein bars offered in the Los Angeles launch.

Many launch partnerships were geared toward well-known local brands, such as Cargo’s Atlanta launch for which it partnered with Coca-Cola.

Photograph courtesy of Cargo

Uber, you can drive my car

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The in-car vending company is after more than new markets. In July, Cargo officially partnered with Uber so that Uber drivers with a rating of 4.7/5 or above in San Francisco and Los Angeles can pick up their Cargo boxes at local Uber driver support stations. Uber drivers in other markets can have their Cargo boxes shipped to them directly.

Drivers with other ride-hailing companies such as Lyft can also use Cargo, but they must pick up their boxes at a designated delivery hub.

Photograph courtesy of Uber

Oasis ahead

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Cargo is not the only company putting packaged food and other goods into vehicles. Oasis Vehicle Refreshments recently received a patent for automated refrigeration devices with internet of things (IoT) tech to place in sedans, SUVs, taxis, car rental fleets, buses, trains and more.

The system comes with built-in credit- or debit-card digital payment processing. There is also an interface screen on the device that can run advertisements for passengers.

Photograph courtesy of Oasis Vehicle Refreshments
 

Car commerce future

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If Cargo and similar concepts continue to gain funding, improve technology and grow in new markets, it is only a matter of time before these concepts start seriously competing with c-stores. After all, no matter how convenient a corner store’s location may be, simply reaching into a box in the car for a drink or snack is undoubtedly faster and easier than stepping out of the car and into a store.

Additionally, as self-driving car technology advances, in-car commerce will become increasingly important. Cargo and Oasis Vehicle Refreshments are working to be a part of that autonomous vehicle ecosystem. Are we?

Photograph courtesy of Cargo