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Walmart starts delivering groceries, to your garage or fridge, in 3 US cities

Julia La Roche

Walmart (WMT) on Tuesday launched its grocery delivery service — in which an associate acts as a personal shopper by carrying orders directly to private residences — in Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and Vero Beach.

The retail giant’s InHome Delivery, initially announced at Walmart’s Shareholders Week in June, will initially cover nearly 1 million customers. The service will be offered as a monthly membership of $19.95 for unlimited deliveries on orders of at least $30. The first month is being offered for free.

Bart Stein, Walmart’s senior vice president of membership and InHome’s mastermind, said in a blog post that today’s rollout is “just the first step” for InHome Delivery. He called it a “natural complement” to the retailer’s existing grocery options, from pickup and delivery to the delivery unlimited.

Here’s how InHome works: A Walmart shopper places their grocery order on the website or app. Upon on checking out, they select InHome Delivery and the day they want the items delivered. The shoppers can ask for the food to be left in the garage, or placed directly in the kitchen.

Walmart's InHome Delivery associates will use smart entry technology and a wearable camera to access the customer’s home. Walmart partnered with Level Home for its front door entry technology and Nortek Security & Control for their garage door smart entry technology. The smart lock device costs $49.95, and installation in a customer’s home is included.

Walmart will use its existing online grocery personal shoppers to pick and prepare the orders, and the customer receives a status update along the way. For security purposes Walmart’s delivery associate won’t be able to access the home if the camera is not streaming or recording.

A “vetted” employee who has been with the company for at least a year picks up the order and delivers it to the customer’s home. Walmart even trains the associates on how to best organize a refrigerator.

The customer can watch remotely as the order is placed in the refrigerator, and they also get access to a replay. The associate will then lock the door or close the garage and notify the customer.

Walmart, which sees more than half of its revenues from grocery, has been aggressive in promoting that business across its fleet of 4,700 U.S. stores. By year-end, Walmart expects to have grocery pickup at 3,100 stores and same-day grocery delivery from 1,600, covering approximately 80% and 50% of the U.S. population, respectively.

Another new service, Delivery Unlimited, will also be available in 1,600 stores by year-end.

Meanwhile, the retailer has embraced new technologies like robots to complete more mundane tasks within its fleet of U.S. stores. It frees up its associates to do more specialized work— like fulfilling online grocery orders in newly created roles called “personal shoppers.”

Julia La Roche is a finance reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.