Amazon is testing the new Tote program in its home city of Seattle, according to Financial Times Online. Purchases are bagged in reusable totes and delivered to the Seattle participant's home, free of charge, within the appointed delivery window, either weekly or twice weekly. You can also do returns right from your doorstep. The company is reportedly going to expand the program, but it hasn't issued a time frame for the expansion.
Other than the limited delivery area at first, what's the catch? At first glance, it appears that the trade-off is in the price markup, but then, you won't find a bunch of organic Lacinato kale much cheaper at your local co-op than the $3.19 that AmazonFresh charges. And if you consider gas prices, the cost of driving back and forth to the store balances the hike in the grocery bill. But for many, the sheer convenience of having groceries and other products delivered to their doorsteps more quickly than overnight delivery is worth it, even if it does cost a little more.
If AmazonTote expands, it will obviously create yet another challenge for its competitors. The Financial Times also reports that one of Amazon's largest competitors, Walmart, is making plans to expand its own online low-cost services. Still, it's difficult to keep up with a company that offers everything "from A to Z," as its arrow indicates. Even if you can't find what you are looking for, AmazonTote makes it easy for customers to request products it doesn't carry by providing a link on the AmazonFresh shopping site. There's even a blog site where customers can browse recipes from Amazon's Chef Dana.
Perhaps it is this kind of service and innovation that makes Amazon so popular with consumers, and as retail focuses even more on its online audience, programs such as AmazonTote may turn online companies into the next generation of box stores.
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