In June Amazon launched a new way for customers to get their packages. The service has proved popular enough for Amazon to start expanding it.
The online retail giant is now finding itself competing with brick-and-mortar stores to offer same-day pickup of all items, including groceries. To that end, Amazon has brokered deals with smaller physical stores to making deliveries and pickups as easy as possible.
Amazon claims the expansion has gone from one partner with 100 stores to several more retailers serving thousands of customers. Click here to learn about Amazon’s first partner.
Counter is a network of staffed pickup points that allow customers to pick up their Amazon packages in-store at partner locations. With the expansion, Amazon says thousands more of its customers have access to Amazon Hub Counter locations.
Starting with Rite Aid in June, Amazon has now added partners GNC, Health Mart and Stage Stores. Delivery to a Counter location works with same-day, one-day, two-day and standard shipping. It is available to all Amazon customers at no extra cost.
While Counter offers a new convenient option for package delivery, Amazon also claims it’s good for its partner stores because it increases foot traffic in those locations.
To ship to a Counter location, when Amazon.com customers proceed to checkout they can select one of the Counter pickup points available in their zip code. When the package arrives at the store, customers receive an e-mail notification with a unique barcode, as well as a reminder of the address and the business hours of their selected store.
At the store, customers provide the barcode to store staff, who scan it, retrieve the package and hand it to the customer. Customers have 14 days to collect their packages.
Amazon’s announcement to expand its Counter Service comes the same week it announced Amazon Prime members can get free one-day shipping and possibly delivery on $1 items. Click here to read more about that service.
Amazon Hub Network
The Counters are part of the Amazon Hub Network, which also includes Locker, Locker+ and Apartment Locker. They are designed to make it more convenient for customers to pick up and return packages.
Locker is a self-serve option available in more than 900 cities and towns across the U.S. Locker+ locations are manned by Amazon associates and are also located on university campuses.
Apartment Locker allows apartment dwellers to receive all their packages —and not just from Amazon — safely, securely and at the time they want. As with Counter, when Amazon.com customers proceed to checkout they can select a locker location in their zip code as their delivery location.
With the lockers, if an Amazon package is not picked up in three days it will be returned for a refund.
Grocery competition heats up
Even as it improves ways to deliver non-perishable products, providing efficient and widespread same-day grocery delivery continues to bedevil Amazon. For the past year, Amazon has been trying to challenge Walmart in the grocery delivery market.
Right now, Walmart dominates. And it looks like it will continue to lead. On Tuesday it launched its InHome grocery service in Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Vero Beach, Florida.
Not only does InHome provide same-day delivery, but drivers can also enter the home and put perishable items in a customer’s refrigerator. The service costs $20 a month (not including the price of groceries) and will require a $50 smart lock device installed at no additional cost. The first month is free, so your initial annual cost is $270.
Amazon has already been operating a similar project called Amazon Key. So far, it’s mostly been used to deliver packages inside customers’ homes, but it does offer a grocery delivery option. The initial annual cost is more prohibitive. Add the $119 Prime membership, an optional $15 to access Amazon Fresh, plus $200 for a smart lock kit and you’re looking at $334.