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The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that Walmart will launch a three-city test this fall that will have its employees delivering groceries directly to shoppers’ kitchens and refrigerators.

The program, called Walmart InHome, starts this fall in Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and Vero Beach, Florida. Actual Walmart employees will be making the deliveries; the company says to be able to do deliveries, workers will have to have been employed by Walmart for at least a year.

According to the story, “The workers will wear body cameras clipped to their chests, allowing customers to watch live streams of deliveries being made while they aren’t home. Workers will enter residences equipped with smartlocks, internet-connect devices that can be controlled remotely to unlock a door.”

The Journal makes the point that this is yet another retailer attempt to deliver greater value on the last mile to the consumer. It actually leapfrogs, in some ways, a similar Amazon program: “Amazon offers a similar in-home delivery service for Prime members in 50 cities, called Key by Amazon. But drivers don’t deliver fresh groceries, and they leave items just inside a door, garage or the trunk of a car, not a refrigerator. Its Prime Now service also drops orders, including fresh groceries from Whole Foods, on doorsteps within hours.”

This isn’t Walmart’s only delivery initiative; it also works, in other markets with Instacart and Door Dash, and also has click-and-collect services available in a fast-expanding number of markets.
KC's View:
This isn’t a new concept. A number of companies, over the years, have been playing with the idea. It was a long time ago, I think, that there were companies installing appliances in garages that would give delivery people access from the outside without actually allowing them in the house; the resident could then access the groceries - fresh, chilled, frozen - from inside the garage.

That ended up being cumbersome, and then smart home technology evolved to the point where retailers/delivery people now can actually go into the house, though I do think that it is going to take some time for this to gain broad acceptance. It strikes me as inevitable, though a little problematic in the short term.

One thing that is important here is that Walmart is taking ownership - if people are going to go into customers’ homes, they have to be Walmart’s people, not people working for some outsourcing company.

The battle over the “last mile,” it seems, is becoming a battle for the last few feet or yards.