Walmart Reconfigures Employee Delivery Program
A program Walmart announced last summer that lets store associates opt into delivering e-commerce ship-from-store orders quietly ended in January, according to company documents obtained by Reuters. The program was tested at three stores — two in New Jersey and one in Arkansas — and the idea was that store employees would bring online orders directly to shoppers’ homes after completing their usual shifts. When announcing the program last year, Marc Lore, chief executive of Walmart U.S. e-commerce, said the idea was predicated on the notion that store employees could earn extra cash as they helped the retail giant solve the last-mile problem by delivering items to homes and businesses on routes the company's associates "drive to and from work each day."
At the time it seemed like a perfect example of how omnichannel retailers could further leverage their physical stores to compete with Amazon.com and its network of distribution centers and growing fleet of delivery options. However, most employees had no delivery service experience and sign-ups were meager, Reuters said. In New Jersey, for example, Walmart started the program with the idea that store employees could courier all items that would fit in a car, but the initiative failed to gain traction with skeptical employees who had to use their time after work, according to 16 workers who participated in the trial. Walmart is now testing a more modest service with just four Walmart employees who deliver goods from a single store in Woodstock, Ga. Walmart has also overhauled the guidelines for employees and limited deliveries to groceries and related items such as paper plates.
Total Retail’s Take: As consumers continue the shift to shopping online, traditional brick-and-mortar retailers like Walmart are looking for ways to leverage physical store locations — and their workers — in the supply chain. Despite having 4,700 stores within 10 miles of 90 percent of the U.S. population, Walmart is still trying to figure out how to efficiently make "last mile" deliveries for its e-commerce customers. Currently, for example, Walmart caters to U.S. online shoppers by having them drive up to their local stores themselves to collect merchandise they ordered online. It also partners with couriers such as FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service for routine deliveries, as well as third-party companies such as Postmates, Deliv and Doordash to help deliver groceries. Last week, Walmart was announced as a participant in Waymo's "early riders" program, which will enable its customers to take a driverless shuttle service to and from the retailer's stores whenever they purchase groceries from Walmart.com using the online grocery pickup service. Waymo currently serves the Phoenix metropolitan area and will collaborate with a single Walmart store located in Chandler, Ariz., according to a Walmart blog post.
Melissa Campanelli is Editor-in-Chief of Total Retail. She is an industry veteran, having covered all aspects of retail, tech, digital, e-commerce, and marketing over the past 20 years. Melissa is also the co-founder of the Women in Retail Leadership Circle.