Here’s an interesting thought: what if the stuff you buy online gets delivered quicker because a store customer brings it to your place rather than the retailer in question? Forget same-day delivery: that computer screen you just bought online could be on your desk in an hour or two.
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That’s right: Walmart is reportedly plotting to crowdsource package delivery altogether, although Reuters says the retailer’s plan are still in its very early stages, and would face a slew of legal, regulatory and privacy hurdles should they come to fruition.
Peer-to-peer delivery isn’t exactly a brand new innovation, admittedly. A number of startups, including Zipments, Postmates, mmMule, Stuff2Send and services like TaskRabbit and Zaarly, among others, are already heading into that direction.
This is, however,the first we’ve heard of such an endeavour from a physical-store retail giant – let alone one the size of Walmart.
It’s a fascinating idea that could trim the retail group’s transportation costs significantly: instead of banking on FedEx or its own delivery vehicles to get packages to online buyers, Walmart could instead ask its army of physical store customers to drop off goods to shoppers who reside on their route home.
In exchange, Walmart would cover the store customer’s gas expenses, not by giving them cash but by means of a discount on their shopping bill (which would be cheaper for Walmart).
Jeff McAllister, SVP of Walmart U.S. innovations, told Reuters that crowdsourced delivery could potentially be in place “in a year or two”.
Lots of questions remain, in particular about theft, fraud, late deliveries, insurance and licensing obstacles, as Reuters points out.
You have to admit though that, on itself, this is a great idea that should resonate with FCMG retailers worldwide. This is a hyper-competitive, cut-throat business, after all, and anything that can help cut transportation costs could easily turn into a solid competitive advantage.
Image credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN for AFP / Getty Images