Would you feel comfortable giving Jeff Bezos your house keys? Amazon is hoping that the answer is yes.
The e-commerce behemoth and creator of a global deflation impulse on Wednesday introduced a connected door-lock and security-camera system to let package carriers, guests and dog walkers into your home using an app, WSJ reports. The so-called “Amazon Key” will be available for the bargain price of $25. “This is not an experiment for us,” said Peter Larsen, vice president of delivery technology at Amazon. “We think this is going to be a fundamental way that customers shop with us for years to come."
Of course, one Amazon executive insisted that the key isn’t an experiment: the e-commerce monopolist fully expects this entry process will soon be common features of the homes of Prime customers, giving Amazon direct access to millions of homes. And that’s no accident: The key is essentially Amazon’s coup de grace in its battle to master “the last mile” of delivering packages - a phrase denoting the last leg of a package’s journey as it’s processed, placed on a delivery truck, and spirited to the customer’s door.
As we reported last week, Amazon recently struck a deal with some of the largest landlords in the country to install electronic lockers that delivery people will be able to access for the purposes of dropping off packages. The lockers have a dual purpose: They will help landlords reduce the building staff’s workload (and wages) while also cutting down dramatically on the rate of lost or stolen packages, an area that Amazon has identified as a potentially significant source of cost savings. And, as WSJ points out, in-home delivery is the “next logical step."
As it tinkers with drone delivery and its own delivery service to rival UPS and FedEx, Amazon continues to seek out every competitive advantage it can find as it tries to scale up to take on two entrenched competitors who’ve been pioneers in supply chain logistics. Given the prevalence of smartphones, cutting down on theft appears relatively straightforward.
A consequence of the rise in e-commerce is that “theft is certainly a problem,” said John Haber, who works with retailers on supply-chain issues as chief executive of consultancy Spend Management Experts. Theft is particularly pronounced during the holiday season, when some thieves dubbed “porch pirates” go from door to door stealing gifts.
But it remains to be seen whether consumers are ready to open their doors to strangers. Transportation industry experts said that most people are likely to balk at the idea, at least at first.
There is always a risk that customers just might balk at letting complete strangers into their home.
“People have a difficult time letting cleaning people into their house if they haven’t been properly vetted,” said Ivan Hofmann, a former FedEx Corp. executive and transportation-industry consultant. Still, he added, that is how innovation works: “You have to try things that no one else has tried and see what works.”
In the beginning, the Amazon Key system will allow in-home deliveries only from Amazon Logistics, the company’s delivery network. When an Amazon delivery-service provider brings a package to the door, he or she scans the label with a phone before requesting entry to the home.
The system unlocks the door automatically - without a code - and turns on the security camera as the delivery person opens the door and sets the package down inside. After leaving, the delivery person taps the phone again to relock the door.
The package recipient gets notifications throughout, including a time-stamped log and the possibility to watch a live video of the delivery or a recording afterward. The recipient can also block the ability to enter the home throughout the process.
Customers can also use the app to generate codes for guests to enter and will eventually add access for service providers like dog walkers and maids.
The Amazon Key package includes the new Amazon Cloud Cam security camera and a smart-lock made by partner companies. For now, it is only available to Prime members, something the company said helps add value to the $99 annual subscription fee. The service will initially be available in 37 cities starting Nov. 8.
Customers who’ve purchased Amazon’s Alexa personal assistant or Echo speakers should already be comfortable with installing the company’s devices in their homes, WSJ says. But by introducing Key, Amazon risks angering certain business partners, like smart-doorbell maker Ring and smart-door lock maker August Home Inc., which Swedish lock maker Assa Abloy AB signed an agreement to acquire last week.
However, if Amazon’s track record is any indication, the company’s limitless tolerance to burn money on any growth idea lends it a crucial competitive advantage that could quickly see Amazon Key become a staple in all American homes, meaning that it’s only a matter of time before this tweet becomes reality.
AMAZON, 1998: hello we sell books but online— KRANG ???? NELSON (@KrangTNelson) June 16, 2017
AMAZON, 2023: please return to your Primehouse for your nightly Primemeal, valued Primecitizen