Walmart Inc. said Tuesday that it is launching InHome Delivery, following a test of the service in July that was unveiled by Marc Lore, president and chief executive officer of Walmart U.S. e-commerce.
In doing so, the Bentonville, Ark.-based giant has cut to the chase, beating a large field of competitors vying for market share of grocery, a business with razor-thin margins, but the ability to convert clients into repeat customers at a time when consumers are loyal first and foremost to low prices.
Walmart is using InHome Delivery to hit hard at Amazon. Its vast store network — 4,500 units — and 1 million U.S. associates are assets Amazon can’t quickly or easily replicate, and the retailer hinted that there’s more to come. “This is just the first step for InHome Delivery and an important part of Walmart’s overall promise to leverage our unique assets to serve customers in ways that only Walmart can and innovate for the future,” said Bart Stein, senior vice president of membership and InHome at Walmart. “Soon you’ll be able to return walmart.com items just by leaving them on your kitchen counter — no labels, boxes or return fees.”
Level Home’s front door smart-entry technology and Nortek Security & Control’s garage door smart-entry technology are being used to make smart home technology affordable for consumers across Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Vero Beach, Fla., where the InHome rollout will begin, Walmart said.
Target delivers groceries directly to consumers’ doorsteps with Shipt; Peapod delivers them straight to their doorsteps, and FreshDirect “delivers to you.” Amazon plans to open its own grocery stores at a rate of four a month; Instacart delivers fresh groceries “to your door step as fast as one hour,” and Uber on Friday said it’s buying a majority stake in Latin American online grocer Cornershop.
So far, only Walmart seems positioned to scale grocery delivery. Walmart in June had 62 percent more customers for both its pickup and delivery services than Instacart, its nearest competitor, according to Second Measure. AmazonFresh, which delivers groceries from Amazon warehouses, “never really caught its stride,” but in June, AmazonPrime Now saw year-over-year sales nearly triple for delivery of Whole Foods Market groceries, among other things, Second Measure said.
Carol Spieckerman, president of Spieckerman Retail, said the universe for in-home delivery services may not be as large as the demand for Walmart’s other options. Some services in the retailer’s portfolio of conveniences are targeted toward specific customers. Ideas such as in-home delivery “aren’t for everyone to love, but, rather, the goal is to bring new customers into the fold and keep existing Walmart customers from jumping off its platform.
“Walmart’s click-and-collect service has wooed higher-income shoppers who normally wouldn’t choose Walmart,” Spieckerman said, adding that InHome Delivery will appeal to urban apartment dwellers, seniors, busy moms and those with temporary or permanent special needs. Just as Amazon shoppers have become comfortable with buying numerous categories sight unseen, customers who have a positive experience with Walmart’s InHome Delivery are likely to become regulars.
Stein said the service is simple to navigate. Consumers visit inhome.walmart.com to see if their address is eligible, then choose either the kitchen or garage refrigerator as the delivery spot.
Walmart is charging $49.95 for the corresponding smart device with professional installation included at no cost. Once the lock is installed, customers will receive unlimited deliveries for an introductory price of $19.95 a month for a minimum basket of $30. “And your first month is on us,” Stein said. “We’re sure you’ll love InHome, but just in case it doesn’t work for you, you can cancel or pause at any time.”
As for the staff who will handle the deliveries, the retailer said: “Our delivery associates are selected for their enthusiasm and reliability, then given the knowledge and expertise to do as good a job as you would — or better — with your grocery shopping.” It noted that they’re trained to pick the best produce, avoiding fruit and veggies that are bumped or imperfect, and professionally pack everything to keep it pristine.
The retail and e-commerce behemoth is making sure the experience doesn’t seem cold and robotic. In fact, it seems to have taken some inspiration from “Mayberry, RFP.” “They’re taught how to make a delivery special by arranging items neatly and attractively on refrigerator shelves or on the counter, and leaving behind a friendly note to say that everything was taken care of. Associates must also be considerate about where they park. They’re encouraged to smile at neighbors and required to cover their shoes before entering the house.”
Walmart is trying to allay any qualms or fears shoppers may have about letting strangers into their homes when they’re not present. “Associates will use smart-entry technology and a proprietary, wearable camera to access the customer’s home, allowing consumers to control access into their homes and giving them the ability to watch the deliveries remotely,” Stein said.
The landing page for InHome Delivery features a photo of four associates dressed in the InHome Delivery team uniform. Wearing navy track pants with black devices clipped to polo shirts and jackets with the yellow sparks of the logo, they look like EMTs, no doubt to engender trust.
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