Short Visits Up at Whole Foods Markets with Amazon Lockers

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Amazon is adding more Amazon Lockers to Whole Foods Market stores in Southern California. (Courtesy Whole Foods)

More consumers are making short stops at Whole Foods Markets that have installed Amazon lockers and many of them are likely to be incremental customers.

These short, or “micro” visits, which can be from three to five minutes long, are up by 11% since Amazon closed its purchase of Whole Foods in August, according to Reuters, citing an inMarket report. This compares with a 7% increase in stores that do not have the lockers, according to inMarket data.

Amazon Lockers are self-service kiosks where customers can pick up items bought at Amazon at a time and place that’s convenient for them. In some instances, certain returns also are allowed by using the lockers.

This increase may not necessarily be good news for the organic grocer. According to Jay Jacobowitz, president and founder of Retail Insights, Whole Foods was below the industry average for short visits compared to other grocers, at 6.5% vs. 9%, so the increase to 11% in stores with Amazon lockers looks like all incremental business, or non-core Whole Foods shoppers.

Plus, he wonders if the increase in short visits means fewer longer shopping trips by shoppers. “Was Whole Foods’ lower short-visit percentage a sign that the longer in-store shopping experience was more attractive than its competition’s?”

He also questions whether the automated payment options and self-checkout for these locker pickups will pre-empt customers from interacting with people once in the store. “Does this squander the extra expense Whole Foods has gone to, to create a unique in-store experience, or is mere proximity enough to entice locker-shoppers to enter the store then, or to plan a future visit when time permits?”

Since launching its online Amazon Prime delivery service 12 years ago, the company has sought ways to deliver its packages faster and more conveniently. Issues with package thefts, or “porch pirates,” particularly around the holidays, as reported in the New York Times, have prompted the company to come up with alternative delivery options. In addition to Whole Foods markets, the lockers have been installed in other venues, including 7-11s in more than 300 cities, and in some apartment buildings across the country.

For years — in some neighborhoods — local retailers have been designated as Amazon drop-off locations where customers can pick up or return packages (with just trust and no lockers involved.)

Lockers may be a more palatable alternative to the Amazon Key service the company launched in October, when it gave customers the option of allowing Amazon couriers to open their front door and put their packages inside their home. Many customers worried about the safety of such a practice, while others complained about faults with the technology.

So far the lockers are proving to be a safe and convenient way for Amazon shoppers to retrieve their packages. Whether being able to grab some organic red lentil rotini and extra virgin olive oil along with an Echo Dot proves to be productive for Whole Foods markets remains to be seen.

Says Jacobowitz, “I suspect Amazon Whole Foods stands to benefit from converting more Amazon Prime shoppers to Whole Foods core shoppers than losing Whole Foods core shoppers to the routine locker shopping experience.”

(Note: WholeFoods Magazine is not affiliated with Whole Foods Market.)

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