Amazon’s New Service, Key In-Car, Delivers Packages Directly to Your Car’s Trunk

I visited the Manhattan Classic Car Club along the Hudson River last Friday. But I wasn’t there to gawk at the lime green Lamborghini or vintage orange Bronco. I was there to check out a very sensible red Chevy Equinox.

With the help of that Chevy, a team from Amazon put together a demonstration of a new right-to-your-car-trunk delivery service, called Amazon Key In-Car, which it unveiled publicly Tuesday.

In a parking lot outside, a woman in an Amazon delivery uniform pulled a shipping box from a van nearby and walked over to the Chevy. She used an app for Amazon delivery workers on her phone to unlock the car, then placed the box in the trunk and shut the door. She then used the app again to lock the car. Voila.

As its name suggests, the new program builds off Amazon Key in-home delivery, which launched in October. The free in-car service is available for Prime members to use starting Tuesday, but it’s only rolling out to the 37 US cities where Amazon Key is available and for now only works for newer cars from GM and Volvo.

“The in-home service is working great, and from the very start we knew we wanted to take it beyond the home as well,” Peter Larsen, Amazon’s vice president of delivery technology, told me Friday.

In-car delivery is another way Amazon is working to ship packages as quickly and seamlessly as possible, in hopes that people will buy more from the e-retailer and not stop at a rival store. The company also places lockers in lobbies of convenience stores and apartment buildings, is testing shipping via drones, and offers free two-hour deliveries for Prime customers through Prime Now.

Key also appears to be growing into a more important part of Amazon’s plans, with the company expanding Key’s keyless entry feature nationwide this month and weighing adding more hardware to the program. Using Key, Amazon could become a bigger player in people’s connected homes, while it also cuts down on stolen or water-damaged packages.

But trying many new concepts has brought problems. When Amazon Key first launched, it received plenty of complaints that it was too intrusive and gave Amazon too much control over people’s front doors. That controversy may not resurface with the new in-car service, since the car is a far less private and personal place than the home.

Sucharita Mulpuru, an e-commerce analyst for Forrester, said her company’s research shows that most shoppers don’t use Amazon’s newer shipping concepts like Prime Now, but that’s not the point.

“It’s for the most part a way for Amazon to position itself as a leader in customer-centricity,” she said. “I don’t think they are naive thinking most of the things they try are going to be mainstream.”

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SOURCE: Cnet, Ben Fox Rubin