Walmart to deliver groceries to temp-controlled smart boxes at customers’ homes
Walmart continues its search to find ways to make home delivery of groceries and other goods more attractive to American consumers. A post by Tom Ward, SVP of customer products for the retailer’s U.S. business, announced a planned pilot of temperature-controlled smart boxes that will be placed outside the homes of customers.
The test, which will take place in the retailer’s home base of Bentonvlle in partnership with HomeValet, makes use of boxes running on Internet of Things technology. The boxes have three temperature-controlled zones for frozen, refrigerated and shelf-stable products.
The technology is designed to free customers from the worry of being available to accept grocery deliveries in time to avoid having their purchases melt or spoil. For Walmart, it opens up the hours that it can make deliveries. “While we don’t have plans to do 24/7 delivery today, it certainly has a nice ring to it,” wrote Mr. Ward.
In an email to RetailWire, a Walmart spokesperson referred to the test as “relatively small,” adding that there will be “no cost to customers” participating. The retailer plans to reach out to its current delivery customers in the market to determine their interest in participating.
The smart box concept being tested by Walmart is reminiscent of the long defunct Streamline.com business, which placed refrigerator/freezers outside the homes of customers for weekly deliveries of groceries.
In a session at NRF 2021, the association’s virtual version of its annual event, Janey Whiteside, chief customer officer at Walmart discussed consumer acceptance of various technologies and services. Those that have become popular, such app-based ride hailing services, did so by gaining the trust of consumers. Walmart has had a similar experience with its InHome delivery offer.
While acknowledging that the retailer is making more deliveries inside of garages than in actual homes as a result of COVID-19 concerns, Ms. Whiteside said that trust builds with delivery customers over time who are then willing to give it greater access. It’s part of the “give and get” equation where Walmart has to prove to customers that there are real benefits to deepening their relationships with the chain.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think the smart box technology that Walmart plans to test or something like it will be accepted by large numbers of American consumers? Will the use of such technology change the economics around home delivery in a significant way?