Amazon locks it up
Seattle's Amazon's expansion into little sibling Portland continues. The city has to wait to see if the e-tailing giant will pick Portland for its second headquarters but it recently opened a new package center in downtown, the first in the Pacific Northwest.
Officially known as Amazon@DowntownPortland, the center is equipped with lockers from which to pick up packages. Amazon already has lockers inside and outside certain convenience stores. They were a response to customers saying they had no safe place to receive packages. Theft of packages from porches has become common in Portland.
Shoppers can choose Amazon@DowntownPortland as an address option when completing an order. The service is not just for Prime members, but for Prime members it often includes free One-Day pick up if they order by 3p.m.
When the package arrives at the center they receive a text with a link. Clicking the link goes to a web page with a QR code. The message says which bank of lockers (numbered one to four) the customer should go to. The user holds the QR code under a scanner and when it is accepted the locker door springs open.
The new center is next door to Coava coffee shop. The décor is Northwest minimal - lots of dark wood contrasting with concrete floors and large video screens.
On a recent visit the counter was staffed by a single site manager behind the counter and some associates in the back. As soon as the customer clicks on their link, the site manager goes behind the row of lockers and loads the package in. They prefer you do not activate the link more than 15 minutes before coming for the package.
A large table top allows space for opening and repackaging goods, with tape and blunt box cutters. Free returns are also encouraged with the use of kiosks which print labels. Many packages arrive a day before they might arrive using normal Prime two-day delivery.
All this is part of Amazon's drive to make shopping online even easier than visiting a store. The company has had One-Click ordering for more than a decade and two-hour delivery with Prime Now for two years. It also has voice-activated shopping, using the Alexa voice recognition app. The company sells Kindles and Fires in selected Whole Foods stores, which Amazon owns.
On Nov. 8, it launched Amazon Key, which unlocks doors and allows certain packages to be securely delivered inside the homes without having to be there. This season, the company is also pushing augmented reality viewing of goods online to see how they might look in the home, 50 days of holiday deals around Black Friday, and in 25 cities the Treasure Truck, a mobile package pick-up center.