Walmart announced yesterday that it has added four new online grocery delivery partners to its roster: Point Pickup, Skipcart, AxleHire and Roadie. Walmart says it currently offers delivery in 800 stores and will double that number by the end of this year.
This announcement follows several moves Walmart’s made over the past year to expand its grocery delivery options. The company also works with Deliv and DoorDash, and Walmart subsidiary Sams Club has a partnership with Instacart. But one has to wonder how long these relationships will last, given some of the other moves coming out of Bentonville.
In September of last year Walmart announced Spark, its own crowd-sourced delivery platform. At the time of that announcement, the company said it wanted to “learn even more about the full last-mile delivery process,” which reads like it is interested in keeping and controlling more of the data generated around grocery delivery rather than handing it over to third party delivery services.
Walmart is also making moves that leapfrog human delivery drivers altogether. The retailer started a pilot in November with Ford and Postmates for delivery via self-driving car. And at CES last week, Walmart hooked up with Udelv for grocery delivery via that company’s self-driving cargo vans.
True autonomous car deliveries are still a ways off, as state and local laws around driverless vehicles are still being worked out. But it’s not hard to imagine Walmart ditching its third party delivery partners, combining its homegrown delivery service with some sort of autonomous delivery to manage and control the entire delivery stack. In addition to owning the entire customer relationship, the software that drives delivery vehicles can report back logistical information that helps Walmart further understand its customers (geographies, order times, frequencies, etc.) and refine the delivery process (better routes).
Given the aggressive nature of Walmart’s actions in its grocery battle with Amazon and Kroger, I wouldn’t be surprised if the company went the mobile commerce route as well, perhaps even leasing Robomarts. These self-driving stores on wheels can be more efficient than strict delivery vehicles because they spend more time making money (no travels back to HQ, empty), and they also act as big, roving billboards with Walmart branding.
Again, that’s a ways off, but online grocery sales tripled from 2013 to 2018, and are expected quadruple over the coming years. Walmart is making moves like these new partnerships to expand its delivery footprint now, but with all of the company’s other machinations, how many of these third-party partners will it need when online grocery ordering and delivery becomes the new normal?