Nike and Whole Foods are following Walmart's lead and signalling a new era for online shopping

Katie Canales/Business InsiderA Whole Foods location with pickup in Sacramento, California.
  • It seems that every large retailer in the United States is rolling out new curbside pickup options.
  • Amazon recently rolled out its Prime Now pickup option at Whole Foods locations in Sacramento, California, and Virginia Beach, Virginia.
  • Drive-up or curbside pickup options are quickly becoming the hottest offering in retail. Other retailers including Walmart,Kroger, and Target are either introducing or improving their drive-up options.

The future of retail is picking up steam.

More and more retailers are either launching new pickup options or beefing up the ones they already have by spreading it across more stores.

Most recently, Amazon announced it is bringing Prime Now pickup to Whole Foods.

But curbside service has been getting more popular with stores for years now, and it’s about to take its spot in the retail limelight.

A whole new way to pick up groceries

Starting with stores in Sacramento, California, and Virginia Beach, Virginia, Amazon Prime members will be able to park in designated spots outside of Whole Foods stores and have a worker load up their car instead of having their order delivered.

As for cost, pickup is free if the order is over $US35 and customers give Whole Foods at least an hour to pack it up. If either of those two stipulations aren’t met, there’s a $US5 charge. One bonus: no need to tip for delivery.

Amazon has tried implementing its own pickup locations for its Amazon Fresh grocery service. But the two it has opened, both of which are in Seattle, haven’t been expanded since they opened in 2017, putting the initiative’s future into doubt.

Not to be outdone, Target, after fumbling with pickup options in 2016, rebranded and relaunched its service as Target Drive Up late last year. It recently expanded Drive Up to hundreds of more locations and now offers the service in Chicago, Illinois; Indianapolis, Indiana; Columbus, Ohio; Lansing, Michigan; Louisville, Kentucky; Erie, Pennsylvania; and South Charleston, West Virginia.

Target, in a blog post announcing the expansion, said that Drive Up has “quickly become one of Target’s most popular pickup options thanks to its speed and convenience.”

Walmart picks up speed

Walmart has been greatly expanding its orange-themed pickup offering in perhaps the biggest vote of confidence in the value of a curbside service. The service works much like its competitors’, but it is older and bigger. Walmart built pickup areas in 1,800 of its stores, with plans to expand it further in the near future.

Crucially, Walmart’s more mature service is working in the way it was intended to. Walmart CFO Brett Biggs told Reuters that the service is bringing in new customers and contributed to the 40% e-commerce growth the retailer posted in its most recent quarter.

Amazon whole foods curbside online delivery pickup service sacramento 17Katie Canales/Business InsiderA Walmart pickup location.

It seems big-box stores are figuring out what grocery stores – like Kroger, which has had success with its ClickList service – already know. Aldi is also expanding its online grocery services and preparing to launch curbside pickup in the United States.

But it isn’t just grocery stores and big-box stores, either. Nike recently launched its own version of curbside pickup in its newest high-tech store in Los Angeles, which works with a text-messaging service called Swoosh Text. Customers can text the store to buy, return, and exchange, all from a small parking lot in the rear of the store.

With all of the nation’s largest retailers jumping on, it seems likely that curbside pickup is the newest iteration of e-commerce innovation. For customers, it balances the ease of shopping online with the immediate gratification of buying in-store. Well-established brick-and-mortar retailers can leverage their large store footprints to a greater degree and give customers more options to receive items.

Will delivery for online orders become a thing of the past? Probably not, but incentives like speed and cost could prove alluring to frequent shoppers.

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