Walmart is launching a new service that will deliver groceries — and put them away in your fridge — starting in three cities Tuesday.
InHome grocery delivery is a membership program that is being rolled out at an introductory price of $19.95 a month. It requires shoppers to purchase a $49.95 smart door lock kit or smart garage door kit, which comes with free installation and one month of free unlimited grocery delivery.
"It's a service we plan to grow and scale aggressively" Bart Stein, Walmart senior vice president of membership and InHome said in an interview. Stein said these first three cities "represent variety of factors across demographics, stores and more operationally that set us up the best and quickest to scale nationwide."
Launching in Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Vero Beach, Fla., the pilot program was initially announced at the company's shareholders meeting in June. The company hopes to expand it nationwide, but wouldn't say when or which cities its eyeing as potential test markets if the launch is a success.
Grocery sales have been a key driver of sales and traffic for the world's largest retailer in recent years, representing more than 55% of its total sales. In the most recent quarter, CEO Doug McMillon said the retailer was gaining market share in food and called out its various grocery programs, including free online grocery pickup, unlimited grocery delivery for a fee and this new InHome program. At the end of the second quarter, the retailer had more than 2,700 grocery pickup locations in the U.S. and over 1,000 delivery areas.
Here's how the new InHome delivery service will work:
To deliver groceries, Walmart is requiring employees to have at least a year of service with the company, background checks, motor vehicle record checks and extensive training that includes how to best rearrange groceries in a packed fridge. Customers will need to restrain household pets during the delivery window as well.
To ensure safety, Stein said Walmart partnered with technology companies to create a smart lock system.
Walmart is working with Level Home, a company Walmart has invested in that was founded by former Apple and Nest engineers.
The technology startup developed new smart lock that turns a consumers' existing deadbolt lock into a smart-lock, without changing the aesthetics of inside or outside of door and allows the homeowner to retain the current keys. The conversion to a smart-lock operates over Bluetooth technology to generate a one-time access code that is only available during a specified delivery window.
When the Walmart employee is ready to make the delivery, the one-time access code can only be activated if the corresponding camera worn on the employees uniform is turned on, live-streaming and recording the delivery.
For garage delivery, Walmart is working with Nortek Security for the smart garage door access, which attaches to existing garage door lift and connects to a smart phone. Like the kitchen delivery option, access will only be available during specified delivery window and only available if the employee's camera is activated for live streaming access and being recorded.
For now, items available for the InHome delivery program are only those that are currently available in the Walmart grocery app, which is between 30,000 and 35,000 items which will vary by the store that fulfills the order. While it is largely grocery items, there are some general merchandise items available like health and beauty, batteries, over the counter mediation and first aid.
In December, Stein said the retailer will offer the option for consumers to leave items ordered on Walmart.com on the kitchen counter for returns, and the Walmart associate will take the return. Further details will be shared at a later date.
"We are cooking up other cool stuff, but we can't talk about today" Stein said.
The InHome delivery program was an idea originally launched in New York with a group of 10 employees as part of the retailer's Store No. 8 technology incubator program. It is the first idea out of the group that is now graduating into the broader Walmart corporate structure, under chief customer office and executive Vice President Janey Whiteside.
Meantime, JetBlack, a concierge text-message based personal shopping service is another Store No. 8 program the retailer announced during its 2018 shareholder events that may have a different future. The Wall Street Journal reported Walmart is talking to investors about potentially spinning it off. JetBlack is still in pilot stages in New York City and is reportedly losing around $15,000 per member annually.