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Walmart’s Latest Innovation Solves the Problem of In-Store Pickup

As the battle to offer online shoppers cheaper and faster delivery weighs on retailers’ balance sheets, many are hoping to offset the high cost of conducting e-commerce by introducing the option to “buy online, pickup in store.” But while a recent JDA Software Group survey found that 46 percent of consumers have used BOPIS in the last year, in-store problems affected almost half of those. Walmart, however, might have figured out a solution.

Business Insider discovered that a Walmart store in Arkansas is testing an automatic pickup machine for online orders. Located near the store’s entrance, the tower-like machine operates much like a vending machine and is designed to make in-store pickup as seamless as possible.

Here’s how: when an online shopper opts to buy online and pick up the order in person, he or she receives an order number to enter into the machine upon arrival at the store. The machine, which has the capacity to hold a lot of packages inside, automatically dispenses the order without any employee assistance.

Given the fact that most of JDA’s respondents blamed store associates for pickup-related hiccups such as long wait times and misplaced orders, replacing the middleman with a machine could eliminate the need to hire staff to support omnichannel fulfillment.

“We know speed and convenience are important to our customers and we’re always looking for new ways to bring it to them,” Walmart spokesman Kory Lundberg told Business Insider, noting that the retailer is collecting feedback from customers while testing the machine. “We are excited to be one of the first companies to test this new technology and are looking forward to hearing feedback from our customers and associates.”

This isn’t Walmart’s first foray into automation. The retailer announced plans last month to cut about 7,000 back-office positions across all of its 4,600 U.S. stores. Most of the jobs affected involved accounting and invoicing responsibilities and Walmart said going forward, those tasks would be automated or handled at its Bentonville, Arkansas headquarters.