Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) has a program -- Amazon Key -- where the delivery person actually enters your home to drop off packages. That stops so-called "porch pirates," but it requires letting strangers enter your home.
Now, Walmart (NYSE:WMT) has a similar offer, but it's taking things a step further. The company is expanding its grocery delivery from doorstep drop-off to having your order literally brought to your refrigerator.
What is Walmart doing?
Walmart currently offers curbside grocery pickup in 3,100 stores and plans to expand delivery to 1,600 stores by the end of 2019. Bringing groceries inside the home takes things a big step further. The company explained what it plans in a blog post detailing how what it's calling InHome Delivery works.
Customers place a grocery order and then select InHome Delivery and a delivery day at checkout -- we take it from there! Customers can then go about their days while a Walmart associate takes care of their grocery shopping for them – from food aisle to fridge. At the time of delivery, associates will use smart entry technology and a proprietary, wearable camera to access the customer's home – allowing customers to control access into their homes and giving them the ability to watch the deliveries remotely.
That's fairly similar to how Amazon Key works. It's a mix of convenience and technology designed to make consumers feel comfortable that a stranger will be on their house (and, in this case, in their fridge).
Walmart employees involved in the program will "go through an extensive training program which prepares them to enter customers' homes with the same care and respect with which they would treat a friend's or family's home," according to the company. They will also be trained in how to pick fresh groceries and organize them in the customers' refrigerators.
The program also has an added wrinkle that may make it extra appealing to consumers. InHome workers can accept returns for orders made on Walmart.com. These efforts kick off in Kansas City (Missouri), Pittsburgh, and Vero Beach (Florida) in the fall.
Is this a good idea?
Consider this an arrow in a very deep quiver. Walmart wants to have all its bases covered, and to do that, it's trying every idea possible. InHome Delivery may be distasteful or simply too invasive for some, but there are certainly others who will welcome the convenience.
By doing a slow rollout, Walmart will be able to see how (or if) customers use the service and then tweak it appropriately. The chain's leadership has shown that it's willing to not have all the answers. It has embraced experimentation and moved forward with ideas that work while dropping ones that don't.
Nobody knows whether consumers will like the idea of retail workers entering their homes. It's certainly convenient, and while Walmart has not released pricing for InHome, the company has been very aggressive in keeping costs low or free for its various delivery options.
This is an experiment -- and a relatively small one at that, but it shows that the retail giant wants to leave no stone unturned in building out a truly omnichannel model. It's actually not important whether this works as long as the company keeps testing lots of ideas and it seems very willing to do that.