Walmart is leaving no stone unturned when it comes to getting you your groceries. As of today, that includes testing out its own delivery service (h/t Food Dive). The retailing giant announced a pilot program for its new last-mile delivery service, dubbed Spark Delivery, which will deliver groceries directly to customers’ front door.
From a blog post announcing the service:
Spark Delivery is a crowd-sourced delivery platform that allows Walmart to learn even more about the full last-mile delivery process. The pilot uses an in-house platform that provides drivers with the ability to sign up for windows of time that work best for their schedule as well as Grocery Delivery order details, navigation assistance and more. Components of Spark are powered by Bringg, a leading delivery logistics technology platform. Walmart’s team of personal shoppers are an important component of the overall process as they meticulously shop for customers’ orders. Spark Delivery engages the services of independent drivers who partner with Delivery Drivers, Inc, a nationwide firm who specializes in last-mile contractor management, to complete deliveries.
There’s quite a bit to unpack there. First, the drivers are not Walmart employees; instead, they are contracted out through Delivery Drivers, Inc. (DDI), which does all the recruiting, screening and management of the drivers. Later on the post outlines how DDI can help drivers establish their own delivery business through the Contractor Entrepreneurial Program. This is similar to what Amazon offers through its Flex delivery program.
Second, the company is working with delivery logistics company Bringg, which also counts Coca-Cola and Panera as customers. The Bringg infrastructure includes live tracking of deliveries by the customer which, according to Food Dive, is rare in grocery delivery — this could give Walmart an edge.
What intrigues me most from the company’s post is Walmart’s desire to “learn even more about the full last-mile delivery process.” Once again we see how important data is. Right now, Walmart is contracting grocery delivery out to third parties like DoorDash and Deliv. This gets the retailer some insight into what people are buying and where, but inserting itself further up the logistics stack will provide the company more minute details about delivery routes, times, etc.. This, in turn, can be used to better understand and hyper-target specific neighborhoods and customers.
DoorDash, Deliv and any other delivery service contracting with Walmart might want to be concerned about their long-term prospects with the company. If its own delivery pilot works out, why hand off that customer understanding to a third party?
This move means more tumult in an already tumultuous time in the grocery biz. Ever since Amazon acquired Whole Foods last year, the grocery business has had a fire lit under its collective butt to up its technology and logistics game. Throughout 2018 we’ve seen retailers like Kroger, Albertsons, Target and Amazon all roll out expanded delivery options.
As mentioned at the top of this story, Walmart has been busy covering all of its grocery bases. It currently offers delivery in roughly 50 markets and is expanding that number to 100 metro areas, which will cover 40 percent of U.S. households. It’s also piloting a new robot-powered micro-fulfillment center for expedited and expanded grocery pickup. And it’s even testing out self-driving cars to chauffeur people to and from grocery pickups.
Walmart grocery delivery has a $9.95 fee and a $30 minimum order. Walmart Spark Delivery is currently being piloted in Nashville and New Orleans.