Walmart announced Wednesday (March 31) plans to bring its in-home delivery service to parts of Northwest Arkansas effective April 7. The retailer’s home base is the fourth market for the service. The service is available to about 5 million people in Kansas City, Pittsburg and Vero Beach, Fla.
Consumers who want to take part in the so-called “white glove” delivery service will need to use the Walmart website see if their address is available. They can sign up for a 30-day free trial, and the service requires customers to purchase a $49 smart lock for their garage door with free installation. Walmart said consumers can defer the purchase but the grocery order will be left at the door if there is no one home to let the delivery person inside.
The program costs $19.95 a month after the 30-day free trial and there is a $30 minimum order requirement. Walmart said driver tips are built into the cost of the membership. Walmart said all deliveries are handled by trained, tenured Walmart employees who can access entry into the customer’s home via a key paid and a one-time access code.
There is also an in-home app that pairs with smart entry technology and a camera on the worker’s vest. The customer can livestream the delivery in real-time from their smartphones. Walmart said the door will only unlock once the camera begins live-streaming so the employees are not in the home without being on camera.
In-home delivery includes groceries or general merchandise available through the pickup and delivery section of the Walmart app. The monthly fees covers unlimited deliveries and unlimited returns. Walmart said employees have been trained to take extra precautions with each delivery. Drivers will be screened for fever at the start of their shifts and they will wear a mask and gloves during the delivery. They also will sanitize any surface they touch during the delivery in the home or on the equipment. If a customer is at home during the delivery, employees will stay at least 6-feet away to ensure social distancing.
Walmart began testing the in-home service in June 2019 and Walmart CEO Doug McMillon has told analysts customers who sign up for the service keep it. He said not everyone will want or need it, but for busy families or aging seniors the service is convenient.
When the program was introduced there were skeptics given privacy concerns. A poll conducted by RetailWire found just 27% of respondents thought the program would be a success. But that was before COVID-19, and more consumers have tried home delivery during the pandemic. Mel Kleiman, president of Humetrics, said it doesn’t matter if this is successful because it is a chance to learn more about customer preferences and what they are willing to spend for convenience.
Walmart said in 2019 the only way to know how well the service would be received is to try it. Steve Breen, senior vice president at Walmart, said the company believed it would appeal to Millennials (ages 25 to 40) who were the first to use Uber and AirBnB which have gone mainstream.
“That is an interesting announcement, given that I can recall a time when neither Walmart nor Sam’s Club wanted any part of offering a delivery service. That said, I applaud their willingness to constantly re-look at how they are serving their customers and members, and are seeking ways to build and refine their capabilities. The times demand a willingness to experiment with new ways of serving customers,” said Scott Benedict, executive director of retail studies at Texas A&M University.