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Walmart InHome Poised to Unlock More Intimate Customer Relationships

Direct-to-fridge grocery service is enabled by a smart lock
walmart infridge delivery
Photograph courtesy of Walmart

Walmart this week launches its white-glove, high-tech and decidedly intimate InHome delivery service to customers in Pittsburgh, Kansas City and Vero Beach, Fla., providing online shoppers in those markets unattended grocery delivery direct to their refrigerators and countertops.

The retailer, which announced plans to launch the service earlier this year and which previously tested a similar offering in San Francisco, also revealed, at last, how it plans to access homes—through installation of Level Home’s newly announced Level Lock, a smart lock installed into an existing deadbolt. Walmart is offering the units for $49.95 with free installation. The company said it would be unable to offer service to homes using other smart locks.

Level Home, a Redwood City, Calif.-based technology company founded by former Apple engineers, announced this week that its locks would become available to customers in January. Walmart is among the company’s investors.

For customers preferring Walmart deliver to a garage-located refrigerator, the retailer is offering the GoControl smart garage door opener, also for $49.95, with free installation.

Customers using the service can monitor the deliveries as they happen through associates wearing cameras that stream to the customer’s mobile phones. The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer’s workers will be unable to enter homes if the camera is not working.

Walmart will use trained associates to execute deliveries, a change from unattended options using outsourced delivery or its own crowdsourced fleet, known as Spark. Walmart said InHome delivery associates are trained to put perishables and other better-off-cold items in customer refrigerators and freezer. They also “go through an intensive training program that includes how to pick the best produce and other items, and how to arrange them in your fridge,” the company explained.

Walmart is betting that the service—which will cost $19.95 per month for unlimited deliveries of $30 or more following an introductory free trial period—will form a more intimate bond between the retailer and its shoppers, increase loyalty and share in food, as well as become a platform for a more convenient brand of omnichannel relationship. For example, Walmart said it intends to use the service to facilitate online returns, allowing a shopper to simply leave an item on a counter to be returned.

The initial test in San Francisco in 2018—which utilized a third-party delivery partner and the smart-lock firm August Home—drew praise from customers, reduced common delivery issues such as package theft and misdelivered items. It was thought to help shoppers gain comfort with buying high-value items online and with paying for a higher level of service.

Walmart has also experimented with other concierge-type services, such as JetBlack, an on-demand shopping service powered by text messaging. That service reportedly has delighted customers—mainly wealthy Manhattanites living in high-rises with doormen to facilitate fulfillment—but is reportedly losing considerable money and is seeking new investors.

InHome is now available for more than 1 million shoppers in the three initial markets, but Walmart said it intends to expand the service to additional cities soon.

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