Looking to expand upon its no-membership-needed two-day shipping option, Walmart is calling upon its own employees to deliver packages to customers. Participation by store employees is completely voluntary, and is being presented as a way to make additional money.
Right now, the service is only active in two stores in New Jersey and a third store in northwest Arkansas. Essentially, an employee tells their home store how they commute home, with the option to also add other after-work destinations. A proprietary system then matches the employee’s travels with potential deliveries, which he or she can choose to fulfill.
Special algorithms ensure that any delivery is not too far off the employee’s typical commute. This suggests that the company is attempting to make employee participation as attractive as possible by minimizing the inconvenience of delivery. A special app will navigate the employee from delivery to delivery to optimize their route.
“It just makes sense: We already have trucks moving orders from fulfillment centers to stores for pickup,” Walmart ecommerce president and CEO Marc Lore says. “Those same trucks could be used to bring ship-to-home orders to a store close to their final destination, where a participating associate can sign up to deliver them to the customer’s house.”
Walmart requires that employees pass additional background checks and motor vehicle inspections, and provide proof of insurance. However, the employee can control what type of deliveries they’re comfortable with, including how many packages they’re willing to deliver and maximum size and weight.
In terms of scale, such an effort could be substantial if Walmart can get enough employees to participate. Lore says 90 percent of the U.S. population lives within 10 miles of a Walmart location. The speed of the Walmart distribution system itself could even get packages to online customers the next day — something that no online or brick-and-mortar retailer can do at no cost to the consumer.
Indeed, Lowe sees the move as game-changing, even hinting at same-day deliveries if the system works well. But don’t expect Walmart employees to make a substantial amount of money through the new offering: TechCrunch reports that employees that participate do so at their typical hourly rate.
Given that the cost of gas and wear and tear to an employee’s vehicle are factors that are similar to driving for Uber and Lyft, that is one area where Walmart’s plans might need a little work — even if employees are benefiting from the fact that they’re actual employees, not contractors as is the case with some other local carrier options and ridesharing services.