Walmart Inc. is piloting new grocery technology that uses crowdsourcing to lower the costs of last-mile delivery while offering drivers more flexible schedules.
Spark Delivery uses an in-house platform that lets drivers sign up for windows of time that work best for their schedules, and gives order details, navigation assistance and more for grocery delivery. Components of Spark are powered by delivery logistics platform Bringg.
Spark engages the services of independent drivers who partner with Irvine, Calif.-based Delivery Drivers Inc. (DDI), a nationwide firm that specializes in last-mile contractor management, to complete deliveries. DDI manages recruiting, screening, payment, accounting and other services related to drivers, who are paid by the delivery. DDI also offers access to such services and information as assistance in understanding order flow, group discounts, and a contractor entrepreneurial program that helps drivers establish their own small businesses.
"We’re saving customers time by leveraging new technology, and connecting all the parts of our business into a single seamless shopping experience: great stores, easy pickup, fast delivery, and apps and websites that are simple to use," said Greg Foran, president and CEO, Walmart U.S. "We’re serving our customers in ways that no one else can. Using our size and scale, we’re bringing the best of Walmart to customers across the country. Spark Delivery is one way we’re exploring how to get quality groceries from our door to our customers’ doors."
Along with third-party crowdsourced delivery providers, Walmart is continuing its drive to offer delivery in 100 metropolitan areas, covering 40 percent of U.S. households. Today, the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer delivers groceries in nearly 50 markets, including Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Miami and Seattle.
Walmart employs more than 25,000 personal shoppers, up from 18,000 earlier this year, who power the grocery delivery program, with thousands more being added. The shoppers are required to complete a three-week training program to learn how to select the freshest produce and the best cuts of meat for online grocery customers.
A Jab at Amazon?
The company's new grocery ecommerce program is similar to one already offered by arguably Walmart's chief rival of late: Amazon. Amazon Flex allows people to deliver packages for the Seattle-based ecommerce giant and make $18 to $25 an hour doing so. A dedicated app allows drivers to choose when and where they wish to make deliveries, scans packages on pickup, gives the drop-off location with suggested directions, and shares information on earnings made through deliveries. Currently, the service is available in more than 80 cities, with more to come.
Amazon frames the service as one that empowers drivers to live a less-interrupted life and even follow their dreams – from scheduling delivery assignments before or after a child's soccer game to taking a few weeks off for a kickboxing workshop.
"Sometimes it feels like you have to choose between earning money and having a life," Amazon noted in a video detailing Flex. "It doesn't have to be like that."
This isn't the first time that Walmart has relied on crowdsourcing to deliver groceries. Last June, the mega-retailer announced an opt-in program that allows associates to make some extra money by delivering online orders to customers' homes on their commute home from work. The program, which began its test at two stores in New Jersey and one in northwest Arkansas, was developed to enable participating associates to select how many packages they could deliver, the size and weight limits of the packages, and which days they could make deliveries after work.
One of the country's largest online grocers, Walmart also operates more than 11,200 stores under 55 banners in 27 countries. The Bentonville, Ark.-based company is No. 1 on Progressive Grocer's list of the top grocers in the United States.