Few stories have driven as much interest on GeekWire as our recent look at Amazon.com’s new locker system at a Seattle area 7-Eleven store.
The idea of Amazon customers being able to pop into the local 7-Eleven to pick up their pre-ordered packages, and possibly a Slurpee too, certainly has resonated. And the concept would solve an ongoing challenge facing the Seattle online retailer: How to most efficiently deliver goods to customers. Cracking that nut could open entirely new avenues for Amazon, putting it in more direct competition with the likes of UPS, FedEx or the U.S. Postal Service.
We’ve asked Amazon for comment about the locker project, and have not heard anything back. A 7-Eleven clerk told us that the system was supposed to be turned on this Friday, so we’ll continue to monitor developments.
Interestingly, Amazon’s pilot project at 7-Eleven is not its first foray into pick-up stations for physical goods.
The company experimented with the concept as part of its online grocery delivery service, Amazon Fresh, a few years ago. You may recall that Amazon operated pick-up stations in the Seattle area — the only market where the grocery delivery service is available.
The company pulled the plug on the idea in early 2008, instead focusing on home delivery of groceries. But shortly thereafter the company filed a patent on a mini-storefront concept, one which conceivably could have been used to warehouse products for customers.
But, why build, when you can partner with existing brick-and-mortar locations? That appears to be the theory at Amazon.
7-Eleven has more than 6,000 stores nationwide, typically open all hours with ample parking. (They are “convenient stores” after all). That’s a perfect mix for those who may want to pick up their online orders when they want them.
I never personally used the Amazon Fresh pick-up stations, so I asked Kyle Mulka about his experience and how it might translate to the new locker system at 7-Eleven. Mulka was an early Amazon Fresh customer, but his Seattle apartment at the time was not located in one of the company’s delivery areas. Given that, he tried out the pick-up location near the old Amazon headquarters on Beacon Hill.
Mulka has since moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, and to this day says he misses the Amazon Fresh service. And the tech geek floated some of his own theories on what Amazon might be cooking up, noting that the service would be idea for people who live in apartment buildings and aren’t home during the day.
“It’s especially important for small expensive items like jewelry, watches, electronics, etc. so that they don’t get lost or stolen,” he said.
Mulka, for one, doesn’t think you will be able to rent out a locker like you do at the gym. In fact, The Daily’s initial report on the system indicated that there would be a PIN-number system by which customers could gain access to various boxes.
“The way I imagine these being used is you would order something on Amazon.com, or another Amazon-owned website, select a local 7-11 store to have it shipped to. When it’s shipped it would send you a notification email and/or SMS with a pin number so that you could open the locker when you get there. The pin numbers would be reset each time something new is placed in the locker.”