Marc Lore, head of Wal-Mart's e-commerce operations, said in a blog post on Thursday the step will cut shipping costs, speed the delivery of packages and allow workers to earn additional compensation.
The test is now available in two New Jersey stores, and one in northwest Arkansas. Between a network of 4,700 Walmart stores across the USA and more than 1 million associates, "our stores put us within 10 miles of 90% of the USA population", Lore said. "We take the packages and say, 'OK, this associate lives over here and they're going to drive this way all along the route.' So the distance is pretty short that they need to go off their commute".
Lore called it a game-changer in Wal-Mart's ability to use its stores to move ahead in e-commerce. Those who decide to opt in will be able to set preferences, such as the number of packages they want to deliver, the weight and size limits of the packages, the days they could make deliveries, and so on.
Of course, one could argue that Walmart's penchant for not paying workers a livable wage nearly necessitates the need for its staff to have a second or side job - or, as many today say, a "side hustle". "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 Global Positioning System on their phone and head toward home", Wal-Mart said in the blog.
A lot of technology has gone into the development of this program, hinting that this test is being seriously considered as an alternative way to handle last-mile deliveries at scale. The app can alert an associate when there's an order destined for a location that's on his or her way home.More news: Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) Could Unveil Siri-Powered Speaker Next Week
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Still, Lore seems convinced that the new delivery program marries Walmart's brick-and-mortar strengths with its growing online prowess - courtesy of Lore's company Jet.com, which Walmart bought a year ago for $3 billion - in a way that's ultimately good for customers.
Garcia said that shipment tracking could also prove to be a wrinkle for Walmart, as online shoppers have grown accustomed to knowing where their packages are at any given time.
At this point the program is available in two New Jersey stores and one store in Northwest Arkansas. Employees can also be paid overtime to make the deliveries, Walmart spokesperson Ravi Jariwala announced Thursday.
Walmart, which has 4,700 stores across the country and more than 1 million associates, said the program is voluntary. Walmart is rolling out a grocery pick-up service, where online orders are delivered to customers' cars, and is testing other ways of combining online shopping with its physical stores.
That brick-and-mortar advantage overshadows even Amazon's vast network of warehouses and fulfillment and sorting centers, and would be useful to many traditional retailers and not just Wal-Mart, according to Moody's Lead Retail Analyst Charlie O'Shea. Dropping the annual membership fee for free two-day delivery and offering discounts for picking up products in store have fueled that growth. The US retail giant is trialing a new service that uses its "greatest assets" - its associates (or workers) - to drop off parcels and goods on their drive back home. The new scheme would use those trucks to transport home-delivery packages to a retail store near the final destination.