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Walmart expands mobile-enabled grocery pickup as shopping habits evolve

Walmart is expanding its grocery pickup service, which enables customers to shop their lists online or on mobile and retrieve items at a pre-selected time, bringing it to eight new regions as mass-market retailers compete for a larger share of consumers’ wallets.

The free service has seen a positive response since initial rollouts began in California, likely due to the convenience that allows consumers to easily add grocery products to their shopping lists via the Walmart application and pick up at a time best-suited to them. The brand saw nearly half of orders in initial test markets stem from mobile devices, proving that the grocery sector may be next to become digitized.

“In each of the markets that we’ve opened, the rate at which customers begin using the service has accelerated more than the previous one,” said Ravi Jariwala, director of public relations at Walmart, San Bruno, CA. “In the coming weeks, we’re going to be announcing services coming to even more stores in additional markets.”

Personal shopping convenience
Walmart is now allowing consumers in Atlanta, Charlotte, Fayetteville, Salt Lake City, Ogden, Nashville, Tucson and Colorado Springs to access the platform via the Walmart app or online site. Consumers can view the retailer’s inventory of products and add them to their virtual baskets before checkout.

They may then indicate their preferred time of pickup, at which they are asked to drive to their nearest Walmart location, park in a designated spot and accept their bags of groceries from an associate. Users are able to pick up orders on the same day if they submit their lists before 10 a.m.

As 70 percent of the United States population resides within five miles of a Walmart store, the retailer feels it has the necessary consumer base to roll out a service of this magnitude. Additionally, an increasing amount of individuals prefer to shop for groceries via digital channels, in a bid to save time, meaning that other bricks-and-mortar stores must get on board with the mobile influx.

“Walmart’s status as a price leader should make this service even more attractive, as people will often use it for seemingly undifferentiated purchases, alongside bigger ones (e.g. toilet paper vs. a huge grocery haul),” said Dave McIninch, chief revenue officer of Acquisio.

Another way to drive sales would be to offer more curated, personalized options for repeat users.

“I can see a lot of value in these services if they go beyond order and pick up and move to curated content,” said David Galante, vice president of mobile products, Americas at Emarsys. “It would be interesting if they could suggest grocery items for meals during the week.

“Like most people, we fall into the habit of preparing the same meals over and over; why not use this as a platform to create a custom shopping and home dining experience?  Meals could be change based on seasons, incorporate exclusive ingredients or follow a diet pattern (gluten-free, kosher, etc.).”

Walmart is not the only retailer of its kind to offer this type of service.

Several weeks ago, Target brought its partnership with Curbside, a shopping platform, to consumers in the New York and New Jersey regions after a successful West Coast test, enabling customers to purchase items from their smartphones and have them waiting for pick-up at a nearby store (see story). The San Francisco area rollout saw users’ repeat purchase rates come in at 60 percent.

“One of the things we have consistently heard from customers using the service is that this is changing how they’re shopping,” Mr. Jariwala said. “This is changing how they’re spending their weekends.

“Customers can place their orders online or on mobile and schedule a pickup time that is convenient for them,” he said. “If you’re having a dinner party in three weeks and want to start building your order over the course of those three weeks, you can do that.

“This gift of time is really what we’re giving back to customers.”

Driving impulse purchases
Walmart will likely experience an uptick in sales as this feature continues rollouts in markets across the U.S. The ability to order on mobile may fuel impulse buys among consumers, especially if they happen to do their grocery shopping while commuting home or taking care of children at night.

The retailer has experienced high ordering traffic during the hours of eight to nine p.m., as well as during the middle of the night, likely when parents are up caring for infants or completing last-minute tasks.

“One of the things we see is that orders are being built over the course of a week,” Mr. Jariwala said. “As the refrigerator gets empty throughout the week, customers are adding to their orders, checking out on Friday and scheduling a pickup over the weekend.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely, staff writer on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York