Wal-Mart announced Tuesday that it would begin using lockers at some stores to hold online purchases for shoppers, part of an e-commerce strategy to keep up with Amazon.com.
Wal-Mart will launch the locker program this summer at about a dozen stores, although the company will not disclose where. The program will allow customers to pick up their online purchases anytime they want, 24 hours a day, for up to two weeks after delivery. Shoppers will be notified when and where their item arrives, and will use an access code to open the locker.
The locker program, announced during a Wal-Mart media event in San Bruno, is part of a larger strategy to take on Amazon in the increasingly competitive e-commerce space, where customer conveniences like same-day delivery have become the norm. At Tuesday's event, Wal-Mart officials also outlined plans for improved mobile apps, self-checkout features and digital coupons and gift cards.
"We are absolutely tenacious about building best in class e-commerce," said Neil Ashe, president and chief executive of Wal-Mart global e-commerce. "But we are the only ones who can marry that with the largest retailer in the world."
Amazon, one of the mightiest foes to brick-and-mortar retailers, rolled out its locker delivery program in 2011. Amazon lockers are basically giant post-office boxes in a variety of locations, such as 7-Eleven and Rite Aid stores.
The absence of Amazon brick-and-mortar locations has long been seen as one of the company's greatest advantages, but Wal-Mart is out to prove otherwise, leveraging its massive footprint to expand online and mobile shopping services. Two-thirds of Americans live within five miles of a Wal-Mart, giving the retailer possibly the largest distribution network of any retailer.
Wal-Mart is working to bring the mobile shopping experience into its 4,000 stores. Also on Tuesday, officials unveiled a mobile feature still in the works that would give customers the option to add coupons and digital gift cards to a digital wallet, and automatically deduct the savings from their total at checkout.
The company expanded its "Scan & Go" feature to more than 200 stores this month. The app allows customers to scan items, tally their spending and pay at self-checkout counters using their iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad.
The company said about one-third of its online traffic comes from mobile devices.
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