Walmart Inc. has temporarily suspended its in-home grocery delivery service introduced last fall, but is offering subscribers other delivery options as the pandemic continues.
The Bentonville retailer recently updated its website to explain the change to customers in the pilot areas of Kansas City, Mo. and Vero Beach, Fla. The subscription service called InHome Delivery began in October in those two cities, as well as in Pittsburgh, and has not expanded to other areas.
According to the update issued earlier this month, Walmart's delivery employees are no longer taking groceries into customers' homes and refrigerators. Instead, these customers were switched to a no-contact option called Doorstep Delivery.
The Doorstep option differs from normal Walmart delivery as a temporary service of the InHome membership, which costs $19.95 a month after a seven-day trial. It includes unlimited deliveries of grocery and pharmacy orders totaling more than $30.
"We'll be resuming deliveries into kitchens soon," the company said.
However, customers with the garage delivery option can still have their groceries and other essential items delivered to a garage refrigerator or a clearly visible place inside the garage. Employees who make the deliveries wear masks and gloves, and sanitize every area they touch, the company said.
Bart Stein, Walmart's senior vice president of product innovation who oversees the delivery program, said in an October blog post that the service was one more way to save customers time. InHome Delivery complements other grocery options including curbside pickup, regular delivery and Delivery Unlimited, another subscription program.
Taking in-home delivery to the initial three cities is "an important part of Walmart's overall promise to leverage our unique assets to serve customers in ways that only Walmart can and innovate for the future," Stein said. "We're looking forward to building on our already exceptional service in these markets through InHome Delivery and bringing this offering to even more customers in the months to come."
The service grew out of Walmart's technology incubator called Store No. 8.
"Part of our core e-commerce strategy is to innovate for the future," Marc Lore, president and chief executive officer of Walmart e-Commerce U.S., said in announcing the program's development in June 2019. "The technology powering InHome Delivery combines the power of our store footprint, store associates and world-class fresh supply chain."
That technology includes a "smart" lock that allows employees to enter the home or garage. Each employee wears a proprietary camera that lets customers control access to their homes and watch the delivery remotely.
Customers pay $49.95 for the lock, but installation is free. An available app isn't necessary, but lets customers get delivery notifications and watch livestreams of the delivery plus the recorded video later.
InHome Delivery was widely viewed as competing with Amazon Key, an app that lets customers use their phones to lock and unlock their front door, garage or even certain models of cars to allow delivery of packages. However, Amazon Key deliveries don't include groceries, according Amazon's website.
While both Target Corp. and Instacart have annual subscriptions for grocery delivery, neither has access to customers' homes.
Walmart's in-home service also raised concerns about safety and privacy when it was first announced. To help allay any fears, the company said only workers with at least a year of experience at Walmart are allowed to make deliveries. In addition, the employees undergo background and motor vehicle checks, and receive extensive training.
CORRECTION: Walmart Inc. is offering the subscription delivery service called InHome Delivery in Pittsburgh and is making in-home deliveries there. An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the status of the program.