Walmart to expand InHome delivery service nationwide

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 902 views 

photo courtesy of Walmart Inc.

Walmart will expand its InHome delivery service, first piloted in 2019, and make it available to more than 30 million U.S. homes in 2022. The service has a Walmart employee enter a customer’s home and place items in the refrigerator, freezer or pantry.

“We’ve been operating InHome in select markets over the last two years and have found it is a perfect solution for customers who want to live their lives without worrying about making it to the store or being home to accept a delivery,” said Tom Ward, senior vice president, last mile at Walmart U.S. “Identifying ways to help our customers save time and money is our purpose, and nothing showcases that better than InHome delivery, which is why we’re excited to bring the convenience of InHome to even more customers in 2022.”

Bentonville-based Walmart said it will hire an additional 3,000 delivery drivers who are fully vetted for the personal service. Also, the retailer will work with various providers to equip drivers with all-electric vans specifically used for the InHome service. Walmart typically uses third-party drivers to deliver groceries and online orders, but the retailer said the InHome service will be Walmart employees trained and vetted for this higher level of interaction.

InHome is now available to about 6 million homes following pilots conducted first in Kansas City, Pittsburg, and Vero Beach, Fla., and expanded to Northwest Arkansas in 2020 just ahead of the pandemic.

Ward said the program was first launched in 2019 as a way for Walmart to provide busy families with more convenience by placing the online grocery order away after entering the customer’s home via a smart lock. Walmart charges $19.95 per month or $148 per year for the added service. The only other requirement is that the household install a smart lock that costs $49.95.

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said in 2019 the service that opens homes to the retail giant might not appeal to everyone, but for those who want ultimate convenience or elderly households where lifting and toting the bags can be challenging, the service is welcomed.

InHome drivers are employed by Walmart and receive an extra $1.50 an hour from most store roles, a pay differential designed to attract top talent, the retailer said in a statement. Walmart said it will fill the roles by promoting its own labor pool. InHome drivers also receive in-depth training conducted in-person and using virtual reality. Each driver wears a body-camera that allows customers to view the employee on their smartphone the entire time they are in the home.

“This new role is yet another example of how technology is enabling us to offer new career opportunities that just didn’t exist a few years ago,” said Julie Murphy, chief people officer, Walmart U.S. “Expanding our number of InHome associates is a testament to the trust and confidence we have in them and their continuous commitment to delight our customers. There’s a path for everyone to build a career here at Walmart, and this position is further proof of that.”

Walmart said the InHome delivery option is an important step in the company’s last-mile delivery strategy, which includes creating a low-cost last mile delivery network focused on density, speed and sustainability. Walmart already offers delivery and express delivery on more than 160,000 items from more than 3,400 stores that reach about 70% of the U.S. population. Walmart also continues to test drone deliveries in select areas and is expanding its white-label delivery service to other retailers such as Home Depot and Chicos.

While Walmart said it has seen enough evidence to merit this InHome delivery expansion, retail and supply chain insiders continue to have mixed opinions.

“I’m glad that Walmart is serious about gaining entry into homes. The retailer – or any other – will never, ever gain access to mine. No matter how vetted they are, giving random strangers access to your home is crazy,” said Georganne Bender, principal at Kizer and Bender. Bender made those comments in a RetailWire blog on Wednesday.

Richard Hernandez, director at Main Street Markets, also said no matter how vetted delivery employees are and with body cams, he would never allow a stranger access to his home.

Carol Spieckerman, CEO of Spieckerman Retail, said Walmart doesn’t roll anything out on speculation so the data collected from early tests support the expansion of InHome.

“Retailers have learned that convenience and choice are inextricably linked, even if some choices attract a smaller subset of shoppers. Walmart was one of the first retailers to understand this and to build out an arsenal of convenience options that make it harder for shoppers to justify shopping elsewhere. As with any number of seemingly unlikely or invasive services, customers who use InHome and have a great experience will spread the word and things will take off from there,” she said.

Spieckerman said Walmart’s goal with the expanded InHome service is to “own convenience.” She said grabbing a smaller subset of early adopters can justify moving ahead.