Amazon Locker Concept Nice but Will Fail

For the past several months Amazon has been placing “lockers” in several cities (Seattle, New York, Washington, DC and SF) to enable buyers to pick up selected (smaller) items locally rather than waiting for home delivery. While the concept is pretty interesting I think the project is destined to fail.

(There are others working on same day or in-store pickup such as Order Ahead.)

Last night I had my first direct exposure to Amazon Lockers as I checked out after buying a mobile phone car charger. It asked if I wanted to pick up my item at a range of 7-11 stores around the SF Bay Area. Here’s the screen:

I don’t particularly like 7-11 stores. However not everyone shares my aversion to these locations. But beyond this, picking something up at a locker is sort of the worst of both worlds. You don’t get the immediate gratification of an in-store purchase nor do you get the convenience of home delivery.

Amazon has explored same day delivery and concluded it’s not viable for the company. This is perhaps the next best thing in Amazon’s mind.

What would be better are actual stores or showrooms where items could be seen and then purchased online. Those could double as pick-up locations. However Amazon probably doesn’t want to make the financial commitment to a national network of branded physical locations.

The only scenario in which I could see Amazon lockers “working” is if someone is going to be out of town and needs a delivery location other than a residence.

Do you agree or disagree with my logic here?

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11 Responses to “Amazon Locker Concept Nice but Will Fail”

  1. Victor Wong says at

    I think the real value is for people who aren’t home to accept home delivery or whose buildings won’t allow easy entry (no doorman). Often times they’ll have to send it to work but work could be very far from their homes so it may be troublesome to lug it around. I could see some real value here though it certainly is limited to a subgroup of total Amazon buyers.

    It’s also possible some people want the extra privacy of the lockers and not risk having items delivered to a location where others could open the box. Christmas shopping would be the most benign example.

  2. Greg Sterling says at

    I agree Victor. Those are good scenarios.

  3. Tom says at

    I think it will work. My apt complex management won’t accept packages, and I’ve had Amazon orders misdelivered or stolen from my doorstep. And in other cases the delivery person decided it would be ok to leave the package on the sidewalk outside my apartment complex. ie, on a busy street in front of a complex with hundreds of units.

    I think there might be tens of thousands of people in any major city who wouldn’t otherwise consider Amazon.

    It also gives them a lot of flexibility. They can put especially hot inventory in those bins before selling it.

    ie, the day before the iPhone 5 is released, it’s not hard to imagine them putting one in each of the small bins, then offering “you can pick up your new iPhone 5 three blocks away RIGHT NOW for an extra $15” or “Skip the Apple store wait! Brand new 64 gig white iPhone 5 in stock two blocks from you — want to go pick it up now?”

    Worth a test, anyway.

  4. Malcolm Lewis says at

    Not to stalk your blog today, Greg, but imho they would be better served complementing next-day delivery with a pick-it-up-today-from-one-of-our-retail-partners powered by the local product inventory service they acquired from Milo a while back. Either I WANT IT NOW or I’m willing to wait a couple of days. Either way, AMZN could be my go-to site if they provided both services side-by-side.

  5. Greg Sterling says at

    They’re doing something like that apparently in the UK. Ultimately they’ll find the right formula with this. Many people who live in buildings say they like this.

  6. Josh says at

    I live near Seattle and have the locker option available to me, as well as same-day delivery. I have used both, and they both have their decided pros. For example, as a student I can hear about an influential book in a morning class, find a Prime-eligible offer, and have it delivered after I get home from school. 

    But what if I’m not home to receive this awesome book that will help me with my homework for that night? I can’t really complain. My current apartment complex is far better than any other I have ever lived in; any package delivery attempt when I’m not home is sent to the manager’s office and is then available for pickup during office hours. Unfortunately the manager’s office is only open until 6:00 and I frequently have classes past this. What if I want my package that day, even if I’m not home to collect? That’s where the benefit of the lockers come in. I can swing by one of the nearby 24/7 Amazon Lockers on my way home and not worry about timing.

    I don’t know if others will have similar enough situations to make the program financially beneficial to Amazon in the long run. But even with same-day delivery available, lockers still are a viable option for me. I’d say that they are in fact the best of both worlds. You can order and receive your item the same day (instant gratification) and you get the benefit of home delivery, even if you aren’t home at any given time.

  7. Greg says at

    I agree that this is very useful for people who live in college dorms or apartment complexes.

  8. BufferBox Part Of Google Effort To Own Commerce Value Chain "End-To-End" says at

    […] this year, when I expressed skepticism about the outlook for Amazon Lockers on my blog, I received a number of comments and responses that indicated they would be very useful in several […]

  9. Cal Bear says at

    I’ve seen several of these including BufferBox (Toronto), Laundry Locker (SF), Dashlocker (NY), USPS Go Post (Virginia) and Amazon (everywhere).  I think you need to look at what the goals are, if goals are to make money, or have a longer term goal of infrastructure… each building is only going to add so many lockers, and it depends on the services.

    I use the Amazon Lockers for my amazon prime packages & dry cleaning and laundry goes through Laundry Lockers in SF.  From a business standpoint (they both are popular in SF), I don’t think Amazon Lockers or Laundry Lockers will fail due to the fact that they are free to use and add convenience for the customer. And they will increase AMZN’s search for real estate, marketing and sales of merchandise, while reducing their expenses. Good luck to the both of them

  10. Jason says at

    Amazon lockers are without a doubt an amazing idea. Simply because not everyone has the luxury of waiting around for a delivery that won’t fit through the post box. Instead I have it delivered to a shop close to my work place and pick it up after work. Simple! Well done Amazon on getting something right.

  11. Brian Huang says at

    I know this article is old, but I’m not entirely sure if I understand you’re reasoning. Aside from obvious reasons involving the convenience for those living in apartments or the safety of not having the parcel at your door, your issue is that

    “You don’t get the immediate gratification of an in-store purchase nor do you get the convenience of home delivery.”

    and your better option is…

    “actual stores or showrooms where items could be seen and then purchased online.”

    …is a store without the gratification of in store purchase or home delivery. Your idea sounds unnecessarily expensive and over complicated. Maybe I’m misunderstanding something here.

  12. Greg Sterling says at

    The lockers didn’t carry enough advantages to make them a scalable solution. Now Amazon has acquired Whole Foods, implemented faster home delivery and is doing other things to close the gap between itself and traditional retail.

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