As COVID-19 continues driving retail pickup and delivery gains, Walmart (WMT -1.08%) just announced its latest initiative to make grocery delivery more convenient and painless for customers. According to today's press release, Walmart is partnering with HomeValet, which will provide the internet-of-things-connected "smart box" at the service's core.
The new program will be tested in spring 2021 in Bentonville, Arkansas, where Walmart was founded and the location of its headquarters. Customers using the smart box can order delivery in advance. When the Walmart delivery personnel arrive, they will use an electronic device to access the box and put the groceries inside. At other times, the box remains securely locked.
The smart box contains separate compartments for different foods, including non-refrigerated items, refrigerated groceries, and frozen foods, maintained at appropriate temperatures. With the smart box locked except to the homeowner and delivery people, it can stand outside on a porch, walkway, or lawn. This enables deliveries of groceries, which then remain fresh, while the customer is at work or otherwise occupied.
The press release says the smart box "presents an opportunity to deliver items 24 hours a day, seven days a week." Walmart says it doesn't yet have concrete plans for a round-the-clock, year-round delivery service, but remarks, "it certainly has a nice ring to it."
Walmart appears to be using its COVID-19 cash windfall to roll out as many different services and subsidiaries as possible. Yesterday it announced a new fintech start-up is in the works, while it continues going head-to-head for market share against Amazon with subscription services, digital shopping, and no-charge returns, among other initiatives.