Walmart - Mike Mozart

Walmart Expands its Mobile Order Ahead Operations

July 10, 2017         By: Steven Anderson

The growth of mobile order ahead is showing up just about everywhere, though admittedly, much of it is food-related. Whether ordering ahead from restaurants or placing an advance order for grocery pickup, that’s a large part of the mobile order ahead field these days. However, that’s changing, and one big change just emerged from Walmart, who expanded mobile order ahead to general merchandise.

The new method calls for customers to place orders on the Walmart website, like normal, but instead of having these shipped to the home, or to Walmart’s customer service department, the orders are instead routed to what’s called a Pickup Tower.

Shoppers then proceed to said tower—currently only available in a few stores—and then scan a barcode displayed on a customer’s smartphone screen to pick up the order. This is all done without employee intervention, and essentially works like a big vending machine that’s holding goods paid for in advance. The service first started in Bentonville last fall, and with success under its belt so far, it’s ready for a larger rollout.

This is in addition to the self-service kiosks recently detailed for those who shop for groceries, which will be located outside of the store. The bins are packed with refrigeration and freezer capabilities to allow all perishables and frozen goods to maintain peak temperature, and effectively allows Walmart service to run outside of Walmart itself. One such operation is said to be currently testing in Warr Acres, Oklahoma, which would be a pretty pronounced test indeed for freezer goods.

There’s one problem I can see with the Pickup Tower, though; it seems to depend on a smartphone. I know, not so big a problem, but if Walmart wants anyone who doesn’t have a smartphone to use this service, it needs to provide some kind of accommodation. It’s already offering keypads for access codes on those outside kiosks; why not incorporate these into the Pickup Tower for those shopping on PC at home?

Still, with minor modifications, the Pickup Tower could be a real winner, and the kind of idea that helps get Walmart out in front of Amazon, which is rapidly encroaching on all of Walmart’s markets.