Amazon wants to get even closer to its customers.
The world's largest e-commerce company on Wednesday revealed a new shipping service that lets customers receive packages inside their homes. The program, called Amazon Key, marks what may be biggest push by any company to spur in-home delivery. It launches next month in 37 US metropolitan areas.
Amazon Key works with the company's new, a smart door lock and the new Key app. It will be available only for Prime members. Besides deliveries, the service can be used to let in guests and, in the coming months, will let customers schedule in-home visits from tens of thousands of local businesses on Amazon Home Services, including house cleaners and dog walkers.
The new service could offer a big benefit for city dwellers who've had packages stolen from their doorsteps or just soaked by rain. Both scenarios are costly for companies like Amazon, which then need to field calls from annoyed shoppers and refill lost orders. In all, 31 percent of people have experienced package theft, according to a survey this year from Shorr Packaging.
"A lot of customers want as many choices as they can have for delivery options," said Peter Larsen, Amazon's vice president of delivery technology. "And so one option, of course, is to have it on your doorstep, another option is to have an Amazon Locker, and now we have a new option if you just want it delivered inside your house."
Still, consumers will need to get comfortable with the idea of strangers letting themselves into their homes while they're away.
Amazon isn't the first to try out in-home delivery. Walmart last month said it's testing straight-to-your-fridge grocery delivery with the help of smart-lock maker August Home and its in-home delivery program August Access. August Home already partners with a handful of service providers and the delivery company Deliv.
Larsen declined comment about providing a similar grocery service through Key. Even so, Amazon already has just about everything it would need to create such an option, including its AmazonFresh delivery service and Whole Foods grocery chain.
And … action!
On Monday, a small team of Amazon employees set up a bed and breakfast on a quiet, tree-lined street in Brooklyn to demonstrate how Amazon Key works.
While Larsen and I watched from the front porch, an Amazon-uniformed delivery worker came to the door, scanned a package, knocked, and then used Amazon's delivery app to unlock the door. She cracked the door open, slid the package inside and used her phone again to lock the door.
Soon after, Larsen got a notification on his phone that his package had been delivered. He opened his Key app to see a Cloud Cam video from inside the house.
For sure, some customers may balk over privacy concerns, but Amazon stressed it's worked hard to maintain privacy and security by training drivers not to enter a home and providing shoppers with a series of notifications throughout the delivery process. Also, customers can use the Key app to turn off in-home deliveries for any packages. Amazon includes a "Happiness Guarantee," letting customers file a claim if a product or any property was damaged as a result of an in-home delivery.
Amazon said third-party drivers dedicated to Amazon package deliveries will conduct the in-home deliveries, not UPS or FedEx.
Leila Bicos, 30, who lives in an apartment near the bed and breakfast, said she probably wouldn't use something like Amazon Key because of how her dog might react to a stranger opening her door. Still, she added, it might be worth it "if you're working a nine-to-five job and you trust the delivery person."
The Cloud Cam
An Amazon Key bundle -- which includes the Cloud Cam, a smart door lock and an option for free installation -- costs from $250 to $320 and goes on preorder Wednesday. The Amazon Key service launches in 37 US metro areas on Nov. 8.
The service works with three kinds of locks made by Kwikset and Yale, and Larsen said Amazon would like to integrate Amazon Key with more smart door lock makers. (Yale's owner, Assa Abloy, earlier this month agreed to buy August.)
People interested in using the Cloud Cam as just a security camera can buy that device for $120. The camera provides night vision, full high-definition resolution and two-way audio. It also integrates with the Amazon Alexa voice assistant, allowing customers to view Cloud Cam livestreams on an Echo Show, Echo Spot, Fire TV or Alexa-powered tablet.
Amazon Key coming to these US metro areas
Kansas City, KS
Los Angeles and Orange County, CA
Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN
Salt Lake City, UT
San Antonio, TX
San Diego, CA
San Francisco Bay Area
Seattle and Eastside
St. Louis, MO
Washington DC metro
While the Cloud Cam works without any additional costs, customers can pay extra for subscription services that offer longer access to video clips. Costs range from $7 to $20 a month, depending on how long clips can be viewed and from how many cameras.
"We are going to be continually rolling out new features," Charlie Tritschler, vice president of product management for Amazon Devices, said in an interview. That means, "you may buy it today with the set of features we have at launch, but we're going to continually improve the product like we've done with Echo."
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