UPS has added Saturday deliveries. The USPS handles packages for Amazon on Sundays. And FedEx is contemplating autonomous delivery vehicles.
Delivery companies are pulling out all the stops to try to keep up with the surge in online shopping. The Department of Commerce reported e-commerce accounted for 8.5% of total sales in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2017, up from 7.8% in the same period last year. In dollars, that’s $105.7 billion. And the growth of e-commerce sales is expected to be triple that of the entire retail industry in 2017, according to the NRF.
Retailers too are looking for ways to capitalize on cyber shoppers. Many are racing to retrofit stores and scrambling to find new ways to make online shoppers happy. While it’s a minuscule part of their overall business, it represents a huge headache—one that will only intensify as the load continues to strain delivery company capacity.
Enter, alternative solutions. The fulfillment process for e-commerce has been likened to a relay race with goods changing many hands from order to customer. One way retailers are shortening that marathon is by signing consumers up for their team in the form of buy online, pick up in store. Walmart has even incentivized consumers who are willing to take on that last-mile task by offering discounts on online-only products that shoppers then pick up in store.
If getting consumers to do part of the heavy lifting sounds novel, the big box retailer has a new idea: on Thursday, Walmart announced that store employees will now be delivering goods on their way home from work. The thinking is, if you’re headed that way anyway, why not literally take one for the team?
Though only a test now, if the program goes wide, it would use the company’s 4,700 stores and 1 million plus employee base to help cut costs and time. The company says it’s a natural fit given that their stores are within 10 miles of 90 percent of the U.S. population.
Walmart has developed an app employees can use to sign up to deliver packages in their area. And yes, if they choose to participate, they are compensated for this unorthodox additional duty.
Marc Lore’s blog post announcing the program is very positive but the president and CEO of Walmart US e-commerce makes no mention of any additional insurance or exposure for the company or its employees.
Though the company is confident the concept will take off–and maybe even lead to same day deliveries—it’s also exploring other options. According to ZDNet, the retailer has filed a patent for new drone technology using blockchain.
The focus of the design is on ensure packages don’t get lost or stolen. To that end, Walmart’s drones would deliver goods to secure lockers. Blockchain, which is a tamperproof digital ledger that records each player and action throughout a process, would be employed to make deliveries safe and trackable.
(Read about other ways in which Walmart is using blockchain: Walmart Launches Blockchain Pilot to Track Supply Chain Issues)
Not to be outdone, Amazon has its own new idea for using drones as a last-mile solution. The e-commerce giant just secured a patent for shipping labels that deploy parachutes from packages so they can be safely dropped from drones.