Amazon’s strategy to bring more brick-and-mortar options into its vast e-commerce empire, and its ambition to sell more pharmaceutical products, today may have found themselves a little more knitted together. The company announced a new service in the US called Counter, a free in-store pick-up service where Amazon shoppers can arrange to collect packages. And its first partner in the new effort? None other than one of the bigger names in drug stores: Rite Aid.
The two will kick off Counter with availability in “over 100” Rite Aid locations across the US. The longer-term plan for Amazon is to expand the pick-up option to 1,500 stores (including other retail partners) by the end of 2019 — a very quick ramp-up in the next six months.
In an interesting geographic reversal of how Amazon rolls out services, this one launched first in Europe, by way of a partnership with the clothes retailer Next in the UK, and Giunti Al Punto Librerie, Fermopoint and SisalPay in Italy. Amazon said the service has so far “been positively received, driving strong customer engagement and additional foot traffic for partners” in those markets.
The deal is a development on Amazon’s bigger strategy to take its business — born and raised online — into ever-more traditional retail settings, both to increase options for its online shoppers, as well as bring more customers into the fold who prefer to procure their goods in person rather than by post. Other very big moves on that front have included trying out its own cashier-less retail locations, setting up bookshops on university campuses, and of course buying Whole Foods.
This latest deal is one of its blended approaches, where online shoppers are given the option of getting in person.
“Amazon is always looking for innovative and convenient ways for customers to ship and receive their orders,” explains Patrick Supanc, Worldwide Director of Amazon Hub, which also includes its Locker, Locker+ and Apartment Locker pick-up services, in a statement. “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. We are excited to partner with national businesses like Rite Aid, and local businesses in the future, to create an outstanding experience for our shared customers.”