USA TODAY - In its continuing battle with Amazon, Walmart is testing a new type of delivery service: Employees dropping off packages on their way home.
The service, which has been tested since April but was just announced Thursday, pays employees extra to deliver online orders headed to destinations along their normal route home. It's the latest example of how the world's biggest retailer is leveraging its large network of stores and 1 million employees to go head to head with e-commerce giant Amazon.
"Our stores put us within 10 miles of 90% of the U.S. population,'' Marc Lore, president and CEO of Walmart eCommerce U.S.. said in a blog post announcing the pilot. "Now imagine all the routes our associates drive to and from work and the houses they pass along the way. It’s easy to see why this test could be a game-changer..''
The new service is currently underway at two stores in New Jersey and one in Arkansas. Packages are ferried from Walmart fulfillment centers to the stores, where employees can volunteer to deliver them.
An app enables staffers to say how many packages they can drop off, how heavy and large they can be, and when they are able to make those deliveries. Once employees finish their shifts, they can pick up the items from the store's back room and use the same app to find the quickest way to their destinations and then home.
Walmart has been engaged in a pitched battle with Amazon, and it has been taking a flurry of steps to cut down the time it takes for customers to get their orders while also paring costs. It recently began offering discounts on roughly 10,000 items that are online exclusives if shoppers are willing to pick them up at a local store. That selection will grow to more than 1 million by the end of this month.
And in January, Walmart said that nearly 2 million of its most popular products would qualify for free two-day shipping as long as the customer spent a minimum of $35. In another bid to cut costs and speed up delivery there would be no minimum purchase required if customers had the orders delivered instead to a local store for pickup.
Hundreds of packages have been delivered as part of the new employee delivery pilot, and Walmart says that in many cases items promised for delivery in the two-day window are being dropped off at a customer's home in half that time.
The retailer wouldn't say how much extra cash employees are earning for dropping off packages. It also didn't say that it would be definitely expanding the new service to other stores.
Still, Lore wrote, "I’m excited to continue exploring more ways to bring our digital and physical strengths together to serve customers."