- Walmart is testing a 24-hour automated grocery pickup kiosk at a single store in Oklahoma, according to Supermarket News. The 20-by-80-foot kiosk can hold up to 30,000 products, including frozen and refrigerated items.
- To order from the kiosk, called “24-Hour Pickup,” customers must choose the “self-service” option when placing an online order with the nearby store. They then receive a confirmation code that they enter at the kiosk, and within 60 seconds will receive their order.
- Walmart declined to share plans for further expansion of the concept.
It turns out Amazon isn’t the only company experimenting with high-tech e-commerce models. With its new employee delivery service, its hybrid convenience stores and now an automated pickup kiosk, Walmart also seems to be probing the nascent online grocery market, seeing what works and what doesn’t.
A 24-hour automated kiosk is certainly convenient, and customers probably get a kick out of picking up their groceries at what’s essentially a large vending machine. But is it worth the extra cost? The answer depends on how and where Walmart might deploy the kiosks on a larger scale. If they’re situated adjacent to a store, like the current test facility, then they might be redundant, especially if those nearby stores also offer online order pickup. There could be value, however, if Walmart opens them at strategic points away from stores.
Given the 24-hour service model at play here, the biggest question seems to be: How much do Walmart customers value after-hours order pickup?
Right now, this and other e-commerce tests are taking a backseat to Walmart’s rollout of its curbside pickup service, which is expanding to more than one thousand stores this year and could be available at all 4,600 stores in the next few years.
There could be some scenario where automated kiosks supplement Walmart’s click-and-collect services. At the very least, the novelty factor could give the company some valuable marketing, as Amazon Go did for the e-commerce giant. More than anything, this pilot program displays the spending power and technical wizardry Walmart is bringing to the table. Indeed, the battle between Amazon and Walmart is shaping up to be a marquee battle in online grocery during the coming years that promises to redefine the industry.