Pickup Towers and Lockers
In 2017, we have seen the two U.S. retail behemoths try to best each other by creating and improving great shopping experiences. For example, with delivery options in the checkout. Amazon placed lockers at then-newly-acquired Whole Foods stores. And Walmart introduced 200 Pickup Towers in their stores. These towers are basically high-tech vending machines. This is an outstanding example of omnichannel retailing done right. Both Amazon and Walmart are pushing on with new technology and both have seen an increase in store visits.
After seeing that more than half a million orders were sent to their Pickup Towers, Walmart decided to expand the program. Last week, Walmart announced that it is planning to install another 500 Pickup Towers. This means that by the end of 2018 there are 700 locations that will carry these towers, which give 40% of the U.S. population access to this feature.
For additional convenience, the towers are located near the entrances so it is possible to get in and out with your ordered items just under one minute. There are people who actually have timed this and were pleasantly surprised by the super-fast pick-up. It helps that they are easy to spot (in-your-face-bright-orange) and they stand 16-feet tall. For the majority of the world who are using the (*cough* correct *cough*) metric system, this means they are 4.877 meters tall.
Great for Walmart and its customers
There are several reasons why these automated parcel towers have been a big hit. Combining online with offline is both cheaper for Walmart and its customers. Naturally, it is more economical to ship items in bulk to a Walmart store than it is to ship to every online customer’s house. That is why the Arkansas based corporation wants to share this cost-benefit with its customer base.
Customers who have purchased their items online and chooses for in-store pickup will get discounts. Great tactic to attract online customers to come to the brick-and-mortar stores, where they have yet another opportunity to grab the attention of its customers. In this area, Walmart has an edge over Amazon because it has a stronger physical presence in the U.S. Hence, they are better equipped to leverage its own omnichannel to create a better customer experience that ultimately leads to increased sales.
Next to the Pickup Towers, Walmart is expanding their Pickup Lockers, which can fit larger objects such as mini-fridges and televisions. This is not so cool as the Pickup Tower, though it is very convenient.
How does it work?
So, it works like this. People go to the Walmart website to shop and place an online order. Once their order is available and is ready for pickup at their local store, the customer will receive an e-mail with a barcode. The customer goes to the nearest store and scans the barcode at the tower’s kiosk computer. Now everything goes really fast. A green screen will light up and at the same time, a hardly undetectable mechanical sound can be heard. It is letting you know that the item making its way to the customer.
Whirs, buzzes, and hums build up the anticipation even more. And just like at a magician’s grand finale, the ordered item appears out of thin air. Internal screams of excitement are in place when a glass window retracts and gives access to the parcel – ready for the customer to take it home.