Retail

Latest Grocery Wars Tactic Fills Empty Fridges While You’re Out

Dollar Stores Are The New Grocery Stores

Would you let a stranger enter your home? What if it was to bring you food? Walmart is taking grocery delivery to a whole new level with its direct-to-fridge delivery service, now in the beta testing phase. The big box retailer has teamed up with San Francisco smart lock provider August Home to trial the concept in Silicon Valley with a small core of opted-in August Home customers.

Customers order their groceries and other goods on Walmart.com as they would normally. Then, those items are picked up by a Deliv driver (Deliv is a Menlo Park-based same-day delivery service provider) and brought to the customer’s home – whether the customer is there or not.

Groceries are stocked directly into the fridge or freezer – while the customer watches remotely, if they’re the suspicious type, or not, if they’re trusting. Walmart is reportedly looking into alternative “drop” locations, so if there is a fridge or freezer in the garage where they would prefer the food to be delivered, Walmart could communicate that to its delivery driver.

According to Progressive Grocer, Walmart thought it wasn’t enough just to do customers’ grocery shopping for them and prepare the order for pickup in-store or at an automated kiosk, or even to bring those groceries conveniently to their front door. After all, home delivery still requires the customer to be home throughout the two-hour delivery window. But no more! Now, as if by magic, the goods can simply appear in the fridge. Leave an empty fridge in the morning, come home to a full one after work.

“These tests are a natural evolution of what Walmart is all about – an obsession with saving our customers not just money but also time, making our customers’ lives easier in the process,” Walmart said in a recent blog post. “What might seem novel today could be the standard tomorrow.”

The Deliv driver is able to access the home with a single-use passcode entered on the August Home security pad while the homeowner is at work or out and about. The homeowner gets a notification when the door is unlocked and re-locked and can watch the delivery on August Home’s mobile app on their phone or tablet via real-time security system.

This move by Walmart comes at the same time as Amazon’s announcement of its partnership with Olo, the digital ordering platform that delivers from Applebee’s, Chipotle and others, and shortly after the eCommerce giant’s first foray into Big Grocery with its $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods Market over the summer. Coincidence? Probably not. Like everyone else in the grocery game, Walmart is fighting tooth and nail to stay on top – and it’s not a “game” so much as a “war.”

Is futuristic retail convenience the key to victory? Walmart sure seems to think so.

“Clearly this adds more convenience to the day-to-day, but it makes the unexpected easier, too,” says the company blog. “Imagine planning a last-minute get-together and having everything you need to entertain already waiting for you inside your fridge. Or maybe you think during lunch at work that you’d like to surprise your spouse by making dinner, but don’t have time to run to the store. In the future, you could order on Walmart.com and start cooking minutes after you walk through the door.”

Yes, Walmart, it sounds like magic – but do customers want delivery drivers in their home while they’re away? Based on the comments section of the company blog, the response has been mixed so far.

Some are saying, flat-out, “No” – think of the background checks, the extra insurance, the anxiety level Walmart is introducing to customers. Besides simple, obvious theft, said one commenter, what if the delivery driver is a hacker and compromises the family’s network of connected devices?

Others can’t wait to kiss grocery shopping goodbye, with many excited to share such an option with an elderly loved one (or perhaps leverage it themselves as they age). While the idea has been billed as a retail solution for busy families, the elderly demographic may in fact be a perfect niche for such a service, and many seem eager to give it a try.

Other commenters are pitching their own compromises: a delivery lock-bock such as those used by UPS and FedEx, suggested one, or a similar lock-box to be shared by the neighborhood.

Most, however, seem to fall somewhere in the middle: in the right circumstances, with the right employees who have undergone the right background checks, et cetera et cetera, they might just think about maybe giving it a shot. Would you?

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