Amazon opens Seattle grocery pickup sites to Prime members

The concept, dubbed AmazonFresh Pickup, allows shoppers to buy items online and choose a time to collect them at a drive-in facility in Ballard or Sodo, where the grocery bags will be brought to their car.

Amazon.com’s two grocery pickup sites in Seattle have emerged out of “beta” mode — and can be used by members of the company’s Prime loyalty program.

The concept, dubbed AmazonFresh Pickup, allows shoppers to buy items online and choose a time to collect them at a drive-in Amazon facility in Ballard or Sodo, where the grocery bags will be brought to their car.

Until Thursday, only Amazon employees participating in a test program could access these sites. Their opening to the public means that the early part of the experiment must have worked, and now Amazon will test it on a much broader scale.

AmazonFresh Pickup is one of various approaches by the world’s largest e-commerce player to crack the gigantic market for groceries.

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It’s been trying to do that for a decade with AmazonFresh, a grocery-delivery service that costs $14.99 a month, but it’s failed to make significant inroads against grocery rivals such as Wal-Mart and Costco.

The bricks-and-mortar foray is aimed at making consumers who prefer to buy groceries at a physical store more familiar with Amazon as a purveyor of fresh foods, and perhaps nudge them to do more online shopping.

Seattle is the backdrop of some of this grocery experimentation. Besides AmazonFresh Pickup, the company operates a cashierless convenience store dubbed Amazon Go. That store was expected to open to the general public early this year, but so far it remains accessible only to Amazonians. The Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon was working out problems with the technology.

AmazonFresh Pickup works like this: Prime members go online to the…

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