retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Walmart said yesterday that Walmart is testing a program in which it asks store employees to deliver online orders to customers' homes or offices on their way home from work, an effort to establish a "last mile" advantage over primary online rival Amazon. The notion of a "last mile" advantage is notable considering that nine out of 10 Americans live within 10 miles of a Walmart.

The tests are taking place in New Jersey and Arkansas, with workers able to make extra money by using their own cars. Bloomberg writes that employees are "assigned packages based on where they live so the route aligns with their commute home."

Walmart "is using those locations as shipping hubs to compete with Amazon on the last mile of delivery -- the most expensive part of getting goods to customers," Bloombergwrites. " By using existing workers in their own cars, Wal-Mart could create a vast network with little upfront cost, similar to how Uber Technologies Inc. created a ride-hailing service without owning any cars."

And, Bloomberg writes, "The lines between internet and brick-and-mortar commerce are blurring as retailers -- including Amazon -- try to accommodate a variety of shopping preferences. Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart offers free two-day delivery on millions of items to compete with Amazon’s standard delivery time. It also lets customers buy groceries online and pick them up at stores and offers discounts to online shoppers who pick up items at stores rather than having them delivered."
KC's View:

Now, I do think that Walmart has to be a little careful about which employees it uses in this initiative - you want to have people who are upbeat and friendly and positive ambassadors for the brand. (I know a little something about this. When I worked my way through high school in a clothing store, I used to drop stuff off to customers all the time. It wasn't a formal service, just something we did because we believed in doing everything we could to make the shopper's life easy. And I always knew that I was a representative of the company when I knocked on the front door ... I had to be every bit as personable there as when on the sales floor.)

Ultimately, this demonstrates something that every retailer has to do - figure out what your built-in advantages are, and then find new ways to leverage them. This is something that Walmart has that Amazon doesn't ... and so it changes the game a bit.

The next move is Amazon's.