Could the Wal-Mart shopper become the next-generation UPS guy or gal?

Walmart is trying to roll onto Amazon's turf
Walmart is trying to roll onto Amazon’s turf by leveraging its brick-and-mortar retail stores

The giant retailer, looking to compete more aggressively with in online retail, is considering a plan in which in-store shoppers could pick up online orders and then deliver them to the nearby homes of those customers who purchased online.

The concept, first reported this week by Reuters, is certainly unique. And it follows news earlier this week that Wal-Mart also will start to test a locker service in which customers could order online, and then pick up packages at physical stores by entering a code in a locker. has been experimenting with that concept for nearly two years.

Reuters notes that the concept is yet another sign of the so-called “sharing economy” in which people rent out their homes (Airbnb) or cars (RelayRides). And they report that the effort would “face numerous legal, regulatory and privacy obstacles.”

The company has not yet decided whether to go forward with the concept, though those who signed up to be Wal-Mart delivery drivers could get a discount on shopping as payment.

Amazon Fresh truck
Amazon Fresh truck

“This is at the brain-storming stage, but it’s possible in a year or two,” Jeff McAllister, senior vice president of Walmart U.S. innovations, told Reuters

In Seattle, has experimented with its own delivery fleet for a number of years in the form of its Amazon Fresh delivery trucks. The company has been reluctant to expand the service to other cities.

We’ve also seen the arrival in recent months of other services which provide deliveries to homes — most recently with Postmates setting up shop. It partners with bike messengers and delivery drivers with the promise of delivering restaurant meals, groceries and other items to one’s home in under an hour.

In addition, Google just unveiled a pilot project in San Francisco for something called Google Shopping Express in which customers can get same-day delivery of items from Walgreens, Target, Office Depot and other retailers.


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  • Kevin Pierce

    This might be a case where known (or about to be better known) neighbors self-identify to form their own group. The group picks a day for delivery and places their respective orders, online, directly paying the retailer, with a ‘tip jar’ for their delivery driver.

    The retailer picks and boxes the respective orders placing smaller items, like groceries, into shipping crates / totes. The crates are plastic, sturdy, reusable, nesting or collapsible, definitely washable. Some are insulated for cold or frozen items. Crates are labeled with Order and Group Member identifiers, then staged for easy retrieval at the agreed pickup time.

    The group’s designated driver drives to retailer and checks in. Retailer retrieves order and loads into driver’s vehicle. An optional step might be for the driver to do a visual inspection of the order to ensure completeness. Driver delivers sub orders, retrieving empty crates from previous (or even current order) for return to retailer on the next trip.

    By encouraging neighbors to coallesce and coordinate like this, the reputations of the individual participants to one another remain within the group, freeing the retailer from worrying about the designated driver running off with the order or menacing one of the other participants.

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