Convenience means a lot to consumers, and Walmart Inc. is betting its InHome delivery service—which uses Walmart employees to deliver groceries directly to customers’ refrigerators—will have broad appeal.
Walmart (No. 2 in the 2021 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000) will expand the availability of the service to reach 30 million U.S. households, up from six million now, by the end of 2022. A Walmart spokesman declined to say how many households currently use its InHome delivery service.
After launching in Pittsburgh, Kansas City and Vero Beach, Florida in 2019, Walmart brought InHome to its home turf of northwest Arkansas and other metro areas in 2021. This year, it will become available in cities including Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston and Dallas.
As part of the expansion, the retail giant says it will add more than 3,000 drivers and equip them with a fleet of all-electric delivery vans. InHome drivers are directly employed by Walmart and receive $1.50 per hour more than employees in most on-store roles, Walmart said in a statement.
Walmart says InHome drivers receive training conducted both in-person and using virtual reality. The retailer says it plans to fill the roles by promoting from within.
Walmart’s InHome Delivery service costs $19.95 per month or $148 per year, with no additional fees and includes tips, which Walmart built into the membership price. To use the delivery service, shoppers must have an InHome smart lock ($49.95), to give the Walmart delivery associate access to their home.
This service is separate from Walmart’s loyalty program Walmart+, which costs $98 per year or $12.95 per month. As part of their memberships, InHome customers receive Walmart+ benefits, such as member prices on fuel, free Walmart.com shipping. But Walmart+ customers must purchase an additional membership to use InHome services.
Most consumers are ready for this
In a June 2021 survey of 1,032 online consumers from Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights, 54% of respondents said they were at least somewhat comfortable with in-home delivery and 44% felt the same about in-garage delivery.
U.S. online grocery purchases from retailers like Walmart and many others have soared during the pandemic, doubling in 2020 and growing more in 2021, according to Digital Commerce 360 data. The spread of the Omicron variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 has led to severe outbreaks in the U.S., but that didn’t drive or delay Walmart’s plan to expand InHome, the spokesman says.
“While we remain focused on health and safety of our shoppers and associates throughout the pandemic, the current COVID-19 surge did not directly impact the timing of this expansion, but rather, an increase overall for delivery and convenience options,” he says.
Walmart vs. Amazon
Walmart’s expansion of its InHome service is an example of the growing competition among retailers to offer similar services. In 2017, Amazon.com Inc. (No. 1) launched Amazon Key In-Home Delivery. That service allows Amazon to delivery packages inside customers’ homes or garages, even if the recipients aren’t home. Using the Amazon Key app, customers can track their delivery with real-time notifications, watch the delivery happening live or review a video of the delivery after it is complete. Last year, Amazon expanded the Key service by delivering groceries into garages.
This week, Walmart also announced a deal to reserve 5,000 electric vans from BrightDrop and use those vehicles in the InHome delivery fleet. The retailer says it aims to operate a zero-emissions logistics fleet by 2040. BrightDrop is a wholly owned subsidiary of General Motors Co.
The same day Walmart announced its deal with BrightDrop, Amazon said it would work with Stellantis NV—the parent company of the Jeep, Chrysler and Fiat vehicle brands—to develop software and buy an undisclosed number of electric delivery vans.
In addition to expanding its InHome service, Walmart is experimenting with fulfillment in other ways. In November, the retailer said it would expand its efforts to offer aerial deliveries to homes, joining with startup DroneUp LLC to begin dropping off items ranging from cans of tuna to children’s thermometers.
Bloomberg News contributed to this report.