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BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is expanding its free curbside Walmart Pickup Grocery service into eight new cities this month, widening its footprint to 30 cities overall, according to Michael Bender, chief operating officer of Walmart’s e-commerce operations.
The service will expand into markets including Kansas City, Mo., and Austin, Texas, as the retailer gains confidence it can make the strategy work on a larger scale, Bender told Reuters.
The expansion — which includes adding stores in markets where it already has a presence — will increase the number of stores with the pickup service by a third, to nearly 200.
Bender told the news outlet that Walmart is preparing to expand further beyond this move, which suggests the retailer may look to roll out the service to a more sizeable portion of its 4,600 stores across the United States.
"The data we’ve collected gives us confidence that with existing customers, we are getting a larger share of their wallet, and that's complemented by new customers we are bringing into the fold," he said. "There will be more, so stay tuned."
Walmart aims to capitalize on its network of stores by focusing on in-store pickup to compete with Amazon.com, which is struggling to find the right pricing model and delivering groceries in a handful of cities for a fee, Bender said.
Other traditional supermarkets trying to sell groceries online include The Kroger Co. The supermarket retailer offers pickup at 47 locations and more than 100 stores in its Harris Teeter chain and charges $4.95 per order after the first three orders, Reuters reported.
Customer satisfaction scores for the Walmart Pickup Grocery service were in the mid- to high-90's in surveys from the 150 stores and 22 cities the pickup service expanded to in October. The service was especially popular among mothers with children who like having groceries delivered to their trunk without having to leave the car.
In addition to Kansas City and Austin, Walmart will roll out the service later this month to select stores in Boise, Idaho; Richmond and Virginia Beach, Va.; Provo, Utah; Daphne, Ala., and Charleston, S.C.
According to Walmart, customers can choose from about 30,000 to 40,000 mainly grocery items online, roughly the same assortment as in stores. After ordering and paying online, a customer drives to the store at a designated time and a “personal shopper” brings the groceries to the customer’s car.
Walmart's online grocery push ties in with a $2.7-billion investment the company has made over the past two years in boosting worker wages and training; steps it hopes will improve customer service and translate into higher sales, Reuters reported.
Bender said the "personal shoppers" are getting to know customers, such as how ripe they like their bananas, and he sees grocery pickup as one way to "help change the perception of the service at Wal-Mart."
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. launched its Walmart Pickup Grocery service in its hometown of Bentonville in 2014, as CSNews Online previously reported.