Buying something online is routine: You enter your order on your computer or tablet, and it’s delivered by a professional delivery service, like USPS, FedEx, UPS, or a company’s proprietary delivery fleet. But what if you ordered something and it was brought to your door by some random person who had free time and wanted to do the company you bought from a favor?
Walmart is reportedly considering this latter option, with the supermarket giant investigating whether it could be possible to crowdsource its deliveries for online purchases. If possible, the company could make significant savings over its current delivery solutions – a mix of outside delivery firms and a start-up service Walmart To Go that the company manages.
Walmart’s chief U.S. executive Joel Anderson said in a press meeting that he “see[s] a path to where this is crowdsourced,” with the senior vice president of Walmart U.S. innovations, Jeff McAllister, adding that “this is at the brainstorming stage, but it’s possible in a year or two.”
The model being considered is one where regional stores will be transformed into something like shipping hubs from which orders will be dispatched across the United States. Orders will be transmitted to, and fulfilled by, the Walmart store closest to the recipient’s mailing address, with packages delivered by one of the store’s customers.
That doesn’t mean that anyone will be handed a package with faith in the inherent goodness of human nature and man’s kindness to ensure that it gets to its destination, however. Potential delivery customers will be pre-registered and pre-screened in order to take part in the scheme, and will receive some form of reward in return for their service. One potential option is credit towards their own purchases that will cover the cost of the gas used in delivery.
One of the most obvious drawbacks of this plan is the potential for things to go wrong: What if orders are shipped to the wrong locations? What if the local stores can’t fulfill a particular order? What if packages go missing not through malice but genuine mistake? What if the crowdsourced delivery man gets into a car accident along the way? What if you don’t want some neighborhood stranger to know your full name and address? There is an overwhelming amount of trouble waiting to happen with this plan, should it go ahead.
It’s possible that the service will go through a trial period at a small number of stores, if due to the potential logistical nightmare of rolling out the service. Still, related delivery databases of those interested in participating in just one store sounds incredibly overwhelming. Just think about doing the same across Walmart’s 4000+ stores in the United States.