Although Amazon already offers parcel collection services such as Amazon Locker, for customers who are unable to take receipt of a package at home, Amazon Counter — as the new service is known — was designed from the ground up to enable retailers to manage the collection of parcels for Amazon customers and increase their footfall. The general idea being that if a customer enters a store to collect a parcel, they may buy other things while in there.
Amazon Counter will be available in more than 100 Rite Aid Stores from today, with plans to expand this to over 1,500 by the end of 2019, and it will be open to all Amazon customers — not just Prime subscribers. The company also confirmed plans to expand Counter to “thousands of other locations” through partnerships with additional retailers and businesses.
“Being the first store partner for Counter in the U.S. is a differentiator for Rite Aid and we believe our partnership with Amazon creates a stronger in-store experience for existing customers and new customers that come in to pick up their packages,” noted Jocelyn Konrad, executive VP for pharmacy and retail operations at Rite Aid.
From the customer’s perspective, very little has changed in terms of how they place an order. At the online checkout in the Amazon app, they will select an Amazon Counter location as their delivery address, and when the package arrives they receive an email notification with a barcode that enables them to collect the parcel. Amazon developed a separate app to help retailers manage parcel deliveries, with staff able to locate orders more quickly — and they can identify the correct parcel even without internet connectivity.
Amazon first introduced Counter to the U.K. and Italian markets in early May, serving as a rare departure for the ecommerce giant, as it normally launches new services in the U.S. first.
Counter is actually part of Amazon’s multi-pronged approach to meet growing demand for speedy and flexible deliveries, which includes its in-garage delivery service, in-home delivery service, and in-car delivery service. Counter is part of Amazon’s broader “Hub” suite of delivery services, which includes Amazon Locker and Apartment Locker.
“With Counter, we’ve leveraged our growing logistics network and invested in new, easy to use technology to give customers yet another delivery option rooted in flexibility and control,” noted explains Patrick Supanc, worldwide director of Amazon Hub.
Amazon has also been pushing to expand its delivery capacity, and is setting out to create a network of independent delivery fleets, a program which it’s even now paying its existing employees to quit their jobs and join. Elsewhere, Amazon recently announced that it was to lease 15 more Boeing planes, as it looks to expand its air cargo network by 28%.
It’s not entirely clear whether Amazon Counter will support parcel returns in the U.S, but at its launch in the U.K. and Italy last month returns were not supported at first — Amazon did say at the time that it would soon allow customers to take their parcels back to Amazon’s partners stores too.