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Walmart, which recently announced the expansion of its InHome program, allowing its workers to enter people's homes to deliver groceries and even stock their refrigerators, will team with HomeValet for a new offering that will allow Walmart to up its delivery game while avoiding the issue of letting strangers into one's house.

According to the announcement, HomeValet is making its Smart Box and app available for pre-order, saying it will "first be offered to eligible Walmart InHome customers in select participating regions this January, with wider consumer availability announced in early 2022 … Following a successful consumer pilot conducted with Walmart customers in May 2021, early delivery and a special introductory price will be available to select Walmart InHome customers in January 2022. Verified Walmart InHome customers serviced by participating Florida stores will be the first to experience the fully automated and seamless grocery delivery enabled by HomeValet."

According to the announcement, "Offering a secure, temperature-controlled and internet-connected outdoor receptacle, HomeValet's Smart Box enables seamless unattended delivery of fresh groceries and packages directly to consumers' front door steps every time. Through HomeValet's mobile app and subscription service, consumers will be able to conveniently customize, manage, monitor, and remotely control their Smart Boxes - for delivery fit to their lives, not the other way around."

Here is a YouTube video posted by HomeValet:

KC's View:

From all reports the Walmart-HomeValet test was a smashing success, and I would expect that Walmart will play a huge role in the HomeValet rollout.

We're likely to see a numb er of innovations around this space in the near future, as companies look for ways to reduce or eliminate friction at the delivery point.  (There's still plenty of work to do elsewhere in the delivery chain, but that's another story.)

For example, there is was a story from Axios the other day about an Indiana company called Dronedek that "has developed a patented, sensor-equipped receptacle it hopes will one day be as ubiquitous as today's letter box … It's about 4 feet tall and 2 feet square, with a lid that automatically opens when the drone arrives to drop off — or retrieve — a package.  The secure door is heated and motorized for easy access, and there's a cushioned landing pad inside to prevent damage to packages.

Individual compartments can be heated or cooled, and UV lights can disinfect parcels if needed.  There's even a letter slot for traditional mail."

Here's a YouTube video about Dronedek:

(My favorite p[art of the video is the text that says it is "compatible with humans, drones and robots."  Welcome to the new world.)

The levels of technology required for these various innovations will be all over the place, and I'm sure we'll see some notable successes and failures.  Having Walmart in its camp certainly gives HomeValet a leg up on the competition, and I think this move probably will set the table for a number of alliances between the various players looking for an advantage.

Here's a question I would ask:  Is it likely that a company like Instacart and/or DoorDash will either invest in one or more of these options, or maybe even acquire one, as a way of exerting even greater control over the delivery chain?  I'd think this certainly is a possibility.  And I think that retailers are going to have to consider their options for competing in this segment, or competing with this segment.