Heating up its rivalry with Amazon yet again – this week’s edition – Walmart is testing the use of store associates to deliver online orders to customers’ homes.
In a blog post, Marc Lore, president and CEO of Walmart.com, outlined the company’s plan to begin tapping its army of 1 million associates at 4,700 U.S. stores as last-mile couriers.
Walmart has already started the test at twos stores in New Jersey and one in northwest Arkansas – perhaps near Bentonville? – with Lore saying “the response from associates and customers has been great.”
“Our stores put us within 10 miles of 90% of the U.S. population,” Lore wrote. “Now imagine all the routes our associates drive to and from work and the houses they pass along the way. It’s easy to see why this test could be a game-changer.”
On the supply chain side, Walmart will utilize trucks already making deliveries of online orders from fulfillment centers to stores for customer pickup, adding in orders designated for home delivery and routing them to the nearest store.
Walmart associates can opt into the program using an app that allows them to set preferences – how many packages they can handle, size and weight and their available days and times to make deliveries after work. Also, package allocation is optimized in order to minimize the distance associates have to drive in addition to their normal commute.
Lore also differentiated the program from crowdsourced services like UberRUSH, Deliv and Postmates, saying Walmart associates are already at the origin location of the packages and don’t have to pick them up.
“Once they’re done working at the store for the day, they pick up the packages from the backroom, load them into their vehicle, enter the delivery addresses into the GPS on their phone and head toward home,” Lore said.
MCM Musings: This is a genius move that’s so simple it’s surprising no one had thought of it before – but then again Lore was brought in to up Walmart’s innovation game. Whatever they pay associates to act as couriers will be a major savings compared to the cost of fulfilling ship-to-home orders. Expect Walmart to expand it rapidly, and other retailers to watch closely and follow suit.