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04/26/2021

Walmart Phasing Out Automated Pickup Towers

Jamie Grill-Goodman
Senior Editor
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As curbside pickup services become more popular, Walmart is reportedly phasing out the automated pickup towers that were erected in stores to deliver buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) orders into customers’ hands.

Walmart added 900 new pickup towers in 2019, in addition to the kiosks that were in place in over 700 locations. Since the pre-pandemic move, curbside pickup has swelled in popularity among consumers. Currently, 33.3% of retailers offer the service, 26.7% are working to implement, and another 10% will do so over the next two years, according to RIS’31st Annual Retail technology Study.”

Over the past year Walmart has started to remove or turn off the 17-foot-tall pickup towers often placed at the front of stores, reports The Wall Street Journal. About 300 machines are being removed from stores, and around 1,300 “hibernated” while Walmart focuses on other services.

“The customer told us they want one pickup spot, and they want that pickup spot to be outside,” a Walmart spokeswoman told WSJ.

Walmart’s massive in-store pickup towers are vending machine style kiosks that allow shoppers to retrieve digital orders seamlessly in-store. Shoppers 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.

Walmart also ended its contract with robotics company Bossa Nova Robotics Inc. last year, after it had gradually been adding inventory-scanning machines to stores through the partnership. 

“We’ve worked with Bossa Nova for five years and together we learned a lot about how technology can assist associates, make jobs easier and provide a better customer experience," a Walmart spokesperson told RIS at the time. "This was one idea we tried in roughly 500 stores just as we are trying other ideas in additional stores. We will continue testing new technologies and investing in our own processes and apps to best understand and track our inventory and help move products to our shelves as quickly as we can."