Wal-Mart is piloting same-day delivery initiatives in partnership with startups Uber, Lyft and Deliv, according to a company blog post published Friday.
Wal-Mart said the trials will begin within the next two weeks in Denver and one other market. Customers in test locations are offered the new delivery option when placing a grocery order online. Wal-Mart associates select and prepare the order, then request a driver from one of the partner services to pick up the items from Wal-Mart and deliver them directly to the customer’s location.
"[Customers] pay us our normal $7-10 delivery charge online, and make no payment to the driver," writes Walmart Global eCommerce EVP and Chief Operating Officer Michael Bender. "We’ll also let them know their order is being delivered by a driver from Uber or Lyft."
Amazon is widely seen as the catalyst behind the current on-demand delivery rush. The online retail giant has aggressively shortened the delivery time for its Prime members, first with free two-day shipping and more recently with same-day, two-hour and even one-hour delivery.
“One- or two-day shipping is no longer an option,” said Holger Luedorf, SVP of business at delivery startup Postmates. “We are creating entirely new customer expectations.”
But that runs counter to market research, which has consistently shown that most shoppers prefer free shipping over fast shipping. In fact, recent data shows not much has changed from a 2014 Boston Consulting Group's survey in which just 9% of shoppers said that same-day delivery would improve their online retail experience, far behind free delivery and low prices.
"Most customers don't really need it the same day. It’s nice in big cities, San Francisco, New York," Leigh Helsel, head of retail at tech solutions consultancy ICC, told Retail Dive earlier this year. "But by and large, I’m not sure. When you melt it down, is it really adding incremental sales?”
Accelerated delivery is proving especially tricky for Wal-Mart, whose customers are generally in lower income brackets than shoppers frequenting Target, Amazon and Costco. The average Wal-Mart customer, according to a 2015 survey of more than 4,000 consumers by consulting firm Kantar Retail, is a white, 50-year-old woman with an annual household income of $53,125.
The same-day delivery trial seems to fall in line with Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon’s stated goal of reaching wealthier customers. In March, Wal-Mart unit Sam Club's teamed with same-day delivery startup Deliv for a “very quiet” Miami-area pilot: In his blog post, Wal-Mart's Bender says that Sam’s Club customers (which often include deeper-pocketed consumers, including businesspeople) who've used the Deliv service have “loved it."
Wal-Mart will "start small and let our customers guide us, but testing new things like last-mile delivery allows us to better evaluate the various ways we can best serve our customers how, when and where they need us," Bender adds.