Neil Ashe, chief executive of Walmart's e-commerce unit, said on Tuesday that the company plans to test the use of in-store lockers for holding goods that are ordered online. Testing will begin this summer, and is in response to Amazon, which is now installing lockers in physical retail stores like Staples for secure online ordering and pick-ups.
So, how are Walmart's summer plans possibly related to Google? The latter acquired shopping locker service BufferBox in late November. The Waterloo, Ontario-based start-up provides users with temporary lockers in central locations that accept packages from online merchants. Once a package arrives, the user receives an email containing a one-time-use code. Once the package is acquired, the locker is used for another customer.
Google is also silently working on Google Shopping Express, an Amazon Prime competitor that will undercut the rival service by $10 to $15 per year. It will supposedly provide same-day delivery from local brick-and-mortar stores like Target, Walgreens, Safeway and… you guessed it… Walmart.
With all that said, it's no surprise that Walmart is testing lockers for online purchases this summer. Reuters reports that the company is trying to catch up with Amazon, banking on its network of around 4,000 physical stores in the States to give it an edge over the online competitor. Walmart is also beefing up its number of online products to better address shoppers relying on smartphones and tablets.
Kelly Thompson, a Wal-Mart merchandising executive, told Reuters on Tuesday that the product assortment on Walmart's website increased 35-percent to 40-percent, growing to two million items in 2012. Walmart plans to double that amount in 2013.
So far it's unknown when Google plans to launch its Amazon Prime competitor, but this latest news surrounding Walmart indicates that testing will continue on through the summer. Tom Fallows, an e-commerce product manager at Google, is reportedly running the show in an effort to focus Google's e-commerce initiatives.