Walmart Going All-In on Its Pickup Tower Concept

Tim Denman
Editor in Chief
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Walmart’s in-store pickup tower pilot was a rousing success.

Walmart’s in-store pickup tower deployment was a rousing success, spurring rapid expansion across the chain. Over the next year the retailer plans to scale the program from 200 locations to more than 700. 

Shoppers expect near instantaneous fulfillment of digital orders, prompting many retailers to institute two-day, one-day and in some cases same-day shipping options to meet need-it-now demand. These programs are expensive and shoppers are often unwilling to take on the added delivery expense, prompting retailers to search for innovative and cost effective alternatives.

Walmart’s technology’s massive in-store pickup towers are vending machine style kiosks that allow shoppers to retrieve digital orders seamlessly in-store. All shoppers need to do is scan their receipt and in less than a minute a door opens and their online order is ready for retrieval. Inside the floor to ceiling towers a combination of robotics and simple conveyors work in concert to retrieve shopper orders at speed.

“The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” Walmart said in its blog announcing the scaling of the solution. “In fact, more than half a million orders have been retrieved through the towers since we first introduced them. Because of this success, we’re rapidly expanding this pickup program by adding more than 500 additional Pickup Towers to stores across the country, bringing the total to more than 700 by the end of the year. With this expansion, Pickup Towers will be available to nearly 40% of the U.S. population.”

In addition to the speed and convenience for customers, the towers have the added benefit of driving more traffic into its stores, leading to additional impulse purchases. Although the towers are massive, they have limited capacity. For example, the solution can easily process a small-sized purchase of say a curling iron, but would be unable to facilitate in-store pickup of a bicycle ― a shortcoming Walmart technology will address as the solution is deployed at scale. 

“Our customers have been clear: they love the pickup tower,” the Walmart blog reports. “But, they also told us they wanted the ability to retrieve larger items the same way. That’s why every new pickup tower will come with pickup lockers, making it just as easy to pick up that new TV as it is to pick up a new baseball glove.”