Leave it to Walmart to be on the forefront of retail technology. While the retail giant hasn’t always been on top of things (VUDU came along years after Netflix owned the streaming video market), it remains the one other retailers follow.
I’ve mentioned many times before that the problem with Walmart’s competition is that the Targets and Kmarts of the world simply copy what Walmart is doing and hope it will help sales. However, that just makes things equal. And, with all things being equal, the market leader wins.
Now comes word that Walmart is experimenting with an online shopping service that brings your goods right to your door. Here’s how it works: You order your goods (including groceries) online. An associate gathers up your order then calls Uber or Lyft to deliver it to your door.
Obviously, there’s a fee involved, but it should be enormously easy for the shopper. Walmart pays the driver and you just pay the total (plus fee) online. What could be simpler than that?
The idea of online shopping at grocery stores is not necessarily new. Target has been experimenting with what it calls Curbside and Kroger is working on a ClickList service. The problem with those programs is that customers pick their goods up at the store. They are not delivered.
Even my local Harris Teeter does that.
Why Walmart will make this a success.
Experts in retail have been predicting that online shopping for grocery stores is going to happen regardless, but note that chains have had a hard time making any money from it. Especially when their main brand promise is price. (That is, they must be careful that the service is not too expensive.) In addition, big box stores like Target feed off the browsing component to their sales because the stores themselves are so large. Online shopping, by definition, doesn’t offer that kind of distraction as well.
Walmart, however, will make this a success because it has a delivery component (therefore, challenging Amazon, even if just a little bit) and its brand says: Save money. Live better.
It’s the second line – Live better – that’s the key to giving it permission to use Uber and Lyft drivers. If all the competition can offer is a curbside service and a brand promise that only copies the market leader, then Walmart will continue to win.