Amazon is opening a series of pickup points across the United States that will shorten the wait time on same day deliveries from hours to minutes.
Called “Instant Pickup,” Amazon has opened five locations so far, all near college campuses. The system is designed to offer customers quick access to things like cookies and phone chargers. You order, go to the pick up site, and employees retrieve the goods from lockers in a large back room.
Instant Pickup marks a further innovation in the ways Amazon is threatening to replace retail stores or at least radically alter the way they operate. Now it seems vending machines are under attack too. Reuters reports:
The news underscores Amazon’s broader push into brick-and-mortar retail. The e-commerce company, which said in June it would buy Whole Foods Market Inc for $13.7 billion, has come to realize that certain transactions like buying fresh produce are hard to shift online. Its Instant Pickup program targets another laggard: impulse buys.
“I want to buy a can of coke because I’m thirsty,” said Ripley MacDonald, Amazon’s director of student programs. “There’s no chance I’m going to order that on Amazon.com and wait however long it’s going to take for that to ship to me.”
“I can provide that kind of service here,” he said of the new program.
Instant Pickup puts Amazon in competition with vending machine services. Yet the larger size of the Amazon sites means they are unlikely to pose a threat to those selling snack and drink vending machines to offices and schools. MacDonald said Amazon considered automating the Instant Pickup points but declined to say why the company had not pursued the idea.
Amazon’s ability to shorten delivery times has been a sore point for brick-and-mortar retailers, who have struggled to grow sales as their customers have turned to more convenient online options. Until Instant Pickup, Amazon shoppers could expect to have their orders within an hour at best via the company’s Prime Now program, or within 15 minutes for grocery orders via AmazonFresh Pickup. Amazon has made two-day shipping standard in the United States.
Additionally, Amazon has said that its Instant Pickup services may be cheaper for customers than ordering online would be. Current locations include University of California at Berkeley, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Columbus, Ohio, and College Park, Maryland.