If You Shop at Walmart, Prepare for These Major Changes to Deliveries
The retailer is looking to evolve the way it sends out products to shoppers.
Online shopping has been going strong for decades now, but it really boomed once the pandemic hit. With just the click of a button, delivery orders and curbside pickup requests skyrocketed as people worked to avoid contact with crowds as much as possible. But we're now in the third year of COVID, and numbers have been going down—both in terms of new cases and online purchases. According to Walmart, e-commerce sales for the last quarter that ended Jan. 28 dropped down from the 69 percent growth in the same quarter during 2021. Thankfully, the retailer isn't ready to turn its back on delivery shoppers. Instead, Walmart is planning new major changes to its deliveries in order to make things faster and stay competitive. Read on find out what Walmart is doing now.
Walmart is building new centers to enhance its delivery services.
Walmart is looking to up its delivery game. The retailer is planning to build a bigger, more flexible delivery system that could even be sold as a service to smaller retailers, Walmart executives told The Wall Street Journal. Srini Venkatesan, head of Walmart's omni-channel tech efforts, said executives have been mapping out plans to revamp the retailer's back end technology to enable delivery growth. "This is something we have been thinking about for three or four years," he said.
According to the newspaper, Walmart is building around 100 small, automated fulfillment centers attached to existing stores over the next few years. These centers will store and move items commonly purchased online through a system of mechanical shuttles moving along scaffold trucks that batch orders together for pickup by delivery workers. The executives told The Wall Street Journal that this will help Walmart fulfill more orders and meet demand more quickly without clogging store aisles with workers picking up online orders.
The retailer is also planning to expand its in-home delivery feature.
Another addition to Walmart's planned delivery growth is expanding its newer in-home service. According to The Wall Street Journal, the In-Home Delivery feature brings orders inside a shopper's home or refrigerator. The small team of workers who make these deliveries are required to have been working with Walmart for at least a year, undergo a background check, and wear body cameras during deliveries.
Some shoppers already have access to this delivery service and they gravitate to it because it has a higher level of personalization than regular delivery, Tom Ward, Walmart's head of U.S. e-commerce operations, told the newspaper. But by the end of this year, this delivery feature will be available to around 30 million homes for members who pay $148 annually.
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Walmart is trying to win over shoppers from delivery competitors.
Those are just two of the ways Walmart is planning to grow its delivery services. A spokeswoman for the company told The Wall Street Journal that Walmart increased its delivery capacity by almost 20 percent in 2021 and plans to increase it by another 35 percent this year. Walmart is also building out a service called Spark that will let contract workers shop for or deliver an online order.
The company is also working on a few less advanced ideas for delivery expansion, such as testing autonomous delivery vans that move products short distances on two routes, one near its headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, and the other in New Orleans. According to The Wall Street Journal, the autonomous vehicles travel between small grocery warehouses and stores so that orders can be picked up by shoppers or by delivery workers.
These enhancements are part of executive aims to keep the retailer growing amid a host of competitors like Amazon by speeding up delivery times. "When customers realize they need an item, do they think of Walmart first?" Ward said in a statement to The Wall Street Journal. "The reason they do or they should is we built these things."
This isn't the first time the retailer has made changes to its delivery services.
Walmart has been pushing changes for deliveries over the past few years. In 2020, the retailer introduced its two-hour home delivery serviced called Express Delivery, according to The Wall Street Journal. Before this, Walmart had offered deliveries in pre-scheduled slots that were typically at least a day or two away from the time an order was made.
Now, Express Delivery is available for more than 3,400 of Walmart's 4,700 U.S. stores. Shoppers with access to these locations can pay an additional $10 fee for the service, which is often made for Walmart by a third-party company like DoorDash.
But both the recent warehouse and delivery expansion efforts are focused on helping Walmart eventually provide delivery in just minutes, according to Ward. In terms of delivery, "two days is kind of an e-commerce parity these days," he said. "One day is pretty cool, same-day is really impressive and sub-same day is even more impressive."