TECHNOLOGY

Walmart takes on Amazon with crowdsourced delivery pilot

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Walmart has a new online delivery team — but they aren’t employees and they don’t work for a major delivery company.

The discount giant announced Wednesday that it is testing a crowd-sourced delivery platform service, called Spark Delivery, to get online grocery orders to customers faster. Walmart is piloting the program through a partnership with Bringg, a delivery logistics technology platform. The service is currently being piloted in Nashville and New Orleans, and will debut in “a few more metro areas” this year, according to Walmart.

Spark Delivery utilizes independent drivers who partner with Delivery Drivers, a nationwide firm that specializes in last-mile contractor management, to complete deliveries. The drivers use the Spark platform to sign up for slots that work best for their schedule, as well as access order details and navigation assistance, among other details. The program takes a direct swipe at a similar program at Amazon, called Amazon Flex, that hires individual drivers to deliver packages.

“We’re always looking for the best ways to serve them, so we’re exploring a number of different options for getting groceries from our stores to the customer’s front door – some in-house, some third-party,” said Tom Ward, VP, digital operations, Walmart U.S.

Spark Delivery, which can distribute orders to customers the same day, has a $9.95 fee for orders with a $30 minimum. Customers can get their first order over $50 delivered for free using a dedicated promotion code. (Walmart’s internal team of personal shoppers still pick and pack customers’ orders.)

Drivers are paid by the delivery. However, since Spark Delivery is a third party program, salaries are processed by Delivery Drivers. In addition to compensation, DDI manages recruiting, screening and background checks, and accounting, among other services for drivers.

Spark Delivery is not Walmart’s first delivery partnership, however. In April, the discounter teamed up with on-demand delivery service Postmates to streamline its grocery deliveries. Uber and Deliv have also been helping Walmart test deliveries in select markets, including Dallas, Denver, Orlando, Phoenix, Tampa and San Jose.

All shipping programs coincide with Walmart’s goal to provide online grocery delivery to 100 metro areas covering 40% of U.S. households. Currently, the service is available in nearly 50 markets, including Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Miami and Seattle.

In addition to the delivery services, Walmart also offers its Online Grocery Pickup program that allows customers to pick up their grocery orders at local stores without getting out of their cars. The service, which is supported by more than 25,000 personal shoppers (up from 18,000 earlier this year), is now available in 1,800 stores. A total of 2,100 are expected to be open by the end of the year, according to the company.

“We’re saving customers time by leveraging new technology, and connecting all the parts of our business into a single seamless shopping experience: great stores, easy pickup, fast delivery, and apps and websites that are simple to use,” Greg Foran, president and CEO, Walmart U.S. “Using our size and scale, we’re bringing the best of Walmart to customers across the country.”

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