retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Tech Crunch reports that Walmart has announced "a new pilot program that will test autonomous grocery delivery in the Houston market starting next year. The retailer is partnering with autonomous vehicle company Nuro, a robotics company that uses driverless technology to deliver goods to customers. Nuro’s vehicles in this case will deliver Walmart online grocery orders to a select group of customers who opt into the service in Houston … The program’s goal is to learn more about how autonomous grocery delivery could work and how such a service can be improved to better serve Walmart’s shoppers."

Nuro already is doing a series of tests with Kroger, as well as with pizza chain Dominos. It is operating with a kind of financial tailwind - Nuro has raised more than $1 billion from a variety of partners.

The TechCrunch story points out that this is another attempt by Walmart to exercise greater control over its delivery infrastructure: "Walmart’s Online Grocery business is booming, but today still relies on partnerships with third-party delivery services. Currently, Walmart partners with delivery providers across the U.S. to facilitate deliveries, including Point Pickup, Skipcart, AxleHire, Roadie, Postmates and DoorDash. It has also tried, then ended, relationships with Deliv, Uber and Lyft. By the end of 2019, Walmart Grocery will offer nearly 3,100 pickup locations and 1,600 stores that support grocery delivery."
KC's View:
Test everything. Then test more stuff. Figure out what works. Be willing to move on quickly if something isn't working, but almost be willing to give stuff enough time to marinate before making decisions. This seems to be where Walmart is at the moment, though short-term economics do seem to be playing perhaps a larger role in decision-making than the folks at the top might optimally like.