Tower helps power e-commerce for Walmart

A 16-foot-tall orange “Pickup Tower” is Walmart’s newest move in e-commerce.

The retailer compares the tower to a “high-tech vending machine.” The device lets customers get their online order in less than a minute.

“Today was our initial launch,” Joey Griffin, manager of the Walmart store at 17850 Garland Groh Blvd., said Thursday morning.

Customer response, he said, has been “great.”

“It gives the customer the ability to come in and retrieve their purchase,” he said.

The Garland Groh Boulevard store is the third Walmart in Maryland to implement the technology. The others are in Arbutus and Salisbury.

In a news release, the company said the towers have been installed in about 200 Walmart stores during the past year. Since then, more than a half-million orders have been retrieved through the towers. Walmart plans to add more than 500 additional Pickup Towers to stores across the country.

The Garland Groh Boulevard store also implemented a grocery pickup service earlier this year. Customers order groceries ahead of time, drive to the store and have the purchases delivered to their vehicle.

“Retail is changing. … It’s all about convenience and meeting the demands of what the customer in today’s retail environment wants,” Griffin said.

Also this year, Walmart opened a second Washington County store off Sharpsburg Pike, south of Hagerstown, at 10420 Walmart Drive. The building has a pickup area in the front of the store, but it does not have the tower.

To use the Pickup Tower, customers choose items on and select the “Pickup” option at checkout. When the item arrives at the Garland Groh Boulevard store, an associate loads it into the Pickup Tower.

“The loading process is relatively simple and efficient. … As far as our processes, this shouldn’t be too much of a change for us,” Griffin said.

Customers retrieve items using codes sent to their smartphones. They don’t have to go through the checkout line.

“We know speed and convenience are important to our customers, and we’re always looking for new ways to bring it to them,” John Calloway, a Walmart e-commerce coach, said in the news release. “The Pickup Tower is a great example of how we’re testing new technology and letting our customers and associates tell us what works best. We’re excited by the response to the Pickup Tower and look forward to expanding it to serve more customers.”

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