Did you ever think we’d reach a tech-enabled retail revolution where groceries would be delivered not only to our front doors, but inside our refrigerators? Starting this fall, Walmart is doing just that with its InHome grocery delivery service. The new service heats up the in-home delivery market, and follows first mover Amazon, which offers in-home delivery inside customers’ front doors, as well as in-car delivery and in-garage delivery.
While these two retailers have high expectations for moving beyond the mailbox — believing that consumers will be willing to sacrifice their privacy in the name of convenience — store-to-fridge represents a new frontier of delivery, breaching the barrier of privacy to our butter, bread and berries. In-home delivery presents an opportunity for retailers to set themselves apart from their competitors and increase market share. But, given the privacy and security risks, in-home delivery services must be cleverly executed.
Amazon pioneered in-home delivery with its Key by Amazon service. Key by Amazon is a connected door lock and security system that allows package carriers into the home via the Amazon app to drop packages inside of a homeowner’s front door. The app alerts consumers of pending deliveries with a series of status notifications and provides users with the option to live-watch the delivery in progress and/or view a video clip of the delivery post-event. Amazon’s drivers are instructed to knock before requesting to unlock customers’ doors via their Amazon handheld scanner. As home access is provided via Amazon’s smart lock and app, the e-commerce giant does not need to share sensitive codes or keys with its drivers. Once the delivery is complete, the homeowner’s door is relocked, and security is contacted if lock issues arise.
While Amazon seeks permission to access customer entryways, Walmart wants permission to walk beyond that threshold to consumer kitchens and fridges. Allowing delivery workers so much farther into American homes could breach the last barrier of privacy.
Walmart understands that consumer privacy and safety is paramount to its success. Similar to Amazon’s home access model, the retail giant announced that it will use smart door lock and smart garage door kits and equip workers with body cameras to ease consumer concerns about strangers entering their homes. In addition, Walmart says it will ensure that employees have at least 12 months on the job before being allowed to enter consumers’ homes. Walmart will also include short bios of each worker within its delivery app to personalize the experience and begin to create loyal customers who will trust this service for all of their shopping needs.
But, as Uber and Lyft have painfully learned, extensive background checks and training for those in contact with customers is rarely enough. The ride-hailing companies have experienced a string of disturbing ride app incidents involving drivers. Uber has since launched an investigational unit devoted solely to driver misconduct, and it says it enforces a “three strikes and you’re out” policy. Meanwhile, ride-hailing company Lyft is under fire in a new lawsuit for reportedly mishandling what is being called a “sexual predator crisis” involving its drivers.
And there are widespread issues that arise from retailers’ use of smart home and video technologies too. Just last month a California father’s Nest camera was allegedly hijacked by woman threatening to steal his 18-month-old son. Last month a criminal reportedly used compromised passwords to hack a family’s camera security system to turn up their thermostat and play obscene music. Igniting further concern, security experts confirmed that no smart lock is perfect and demonstrated the ease of hacking various smart lock brands back in 2016 and shared a slew of smart home security flaws in recent months. Amazon’s Key by Amazon Smart Lock Kit has been the subject of numerous hacking news stories, and I believe that Walmart’s Level Lock could potentially have a similar fate.
Another quandary yet to even be considered by brands, the advertising community and regulators alike is how do retailers venturing into in-home delivery address in-home privacy in a GDPR and CCPA compliant world? The laws are not yet written, yet retailers entering homes will have access to highly personal information that can help them to further personalize interactions and communications with their consumers.
For example, if the bodycam footage of an Amazon or Walmart delivery worker notices, through artificial video recognition intelligence, that a customer is running low on Sir Kensington’s ketchup, should the retailers offer the highest paying bidder the opportunity to deliver a coupon for Hunt’s or Heinz ketchup? Does this action create a privacy concern? Does it violate the trust a customer has built with the company? Or is it simply something that consumers could find creepy? This remains to be seen. In the meanwhile, as a best practice, I recommend that all data should be frequently deleted, and brands should tread very carefully around using consumer data gained in-home until lawmakers play catch-up.
This article was originally published in Forbes.