Want your groceries delivered while you’re away from home? No problem.
A leading UK supermarket chain, Waitrose, is giving customers the option of allowing delivery drivers to enter their homes using an access code that works with a smart lock. The code will expire after drivers have loaded groceries into the fridge, freezer or pantry.
The upmarket grocer said Friday it would trial the service with 100 customers in London before expanding it early next year.
Waitrose will pay for a smart lock and installation for participating customers in London, a market where grocery deliveries have boomed in recent years.
In order to reassure customers worried about property damage, theft or snooping, Waitrose will require drivers to wear a camera on their chest. The recording will be available to customers the next day.
Andrew Moss, a consumer tech analyst at market research firm Mintel, said the perception that “something that can easily go wrong” prevents many people from embracing smart key technology.
“A shopping delivery service that uses smart locks therefore takes on all of the security concerns already surrounding this technology, with the added human element of allowing a stranger into the home,” he said.
Still, such a service could fix a problem for others. Research by the consultancy McKinsey in 2013 found that having to wait at home was a major deterrent to customers using delivery services.
And the UK chain isn’t the only retailer to attempt deliveries when customers are away from home. Amazon (AMZN) launched a service last year called Amazon Key that uses smart locks to give delivery drivers access to customers’ homes. It offers the service in dozens of US cities.
Waitrose is owned by the department store group John Lewis Partnership. Like many traditional retailers, John Lewis has found itself under immense pressure from online competition.
John Lewis said last month that profits slumped 98% in the first half of the year as rivals mounted their most aggressive discount campaign in a decade.
Waitrose, which competes against chains including Tesco (TSCDY) and German discounters such as Aldi, saw its profits fall by 12% over the same period.
One bright spot was online grocery sales, which increased 23%. That’s a good reason for the company to broaden its delivery offerings — even if customers aren’t home.