The Viability of Walmart's Customer Delivery Scheme

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Walmart is considering a relatively new approach to same-day package delivery for online customers to help it gain an edge on pure online retailers such as Amazon where store customers would serve as couriers to deliver items to the homes of online customers in return for store credits. Although the concept raises a host of legal, regulatory, and privacy issues, it wouldn't be the first time that a company used a crowdsourced delivery network.

Walmart is considering a relatively new approach to same-day package delivery for online customers to help it gain an edge on pure online retailers such as Amazon where store customers would serve as couriers to deliver items to the homes of online customers in return for store credits. Although the concept raises a host of legal, regulatory, and privacy issues, it wouldn't be the first time that a company used a crowdsourced delivery network.Zipments was formed in 2010 as a crowdsourced delivery service for small businesses to have packages delivered same day at a reduced cost. When Zipments first started out, it was purely a crowdsourced delivery service that allowed anyone over 18 years old with a vehicle, a text-enabled phone and a PayPal account to bid on courier services for local businesses.

Zipments has since evolved and does more screening of would-be drivers before adding them to its delivery network. Meanwhile, Zipments insures packages up to $250 but it encourages its couriers to pick up additional insurance coverage themselves for more expensive items, according to an interview that Reuters conducted with Zipments CEO and co-founder Garrick Pohl.

Walmart executives say they're exploring the potential for crowdsourced delivery. Obviously, there are a number of issues that Walmart will have to work through such as the potential for theft and other liability concerns. Ultimately, Walmart will need to determine whether online customers will be willing to place products they'd purchased in the hands of an unknown third party. Consumers have developed a level of trust with established delivery (now called "logistics") companies such as Fedex and UPS. Are customers willing to entrust other customers with their purchases, assuming that insurance, liability, and other safeguards are adequately addressed?

On the flip side, there's likely a base of cost-conscious customers that would be willing to deliver packages within a reasonable distance of a Walmart store to another customer (or even multiple customers) if there's enough financial incentive for them to do so. As Walmart senior vice president of innovations Jeff McAllister told Reuters, the crowdsourcing delivery discussions are still in the brainstorming stage but the service could be possible within a year or two.

How do you see it? Is this a service model that could potentially catch on with customers?

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