According tomedia TechCrunch, the use of grocery delivery services has reached record highs in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in delayed orders, fewer delivery windows and sometimes even unable to book delivery times. Now, Wal-Mart hopes to take advantage of increased consumer demand for faster delivery to launch a new service. The retailer confirmed Thursday that it will launch a new Wal-Mart grocery service called Express, promising to deliver orders in two hours or less, plus $10 in addition to the usual shipping fee.
The service began piloting tests at 100 Wal-Mart stores in the U.S. in mid-April. Wal-Mart said it plans to expand the service to nearly 1,000 stores in early May and nearly 2,000 stores in the coming weeks. Some Wal-Mart customers may have recently received push notifications reminding them that the company is about to launch the service.
To use Express shipping, users must place an order for at least $30. Express offers more than 160,000 items, including Wal-Mart’s groceries, consumables and daily necessities. At checkout, users see the option of a calendar, where they can select a delivery date to select the Express service. In many cases, there may be no other standard delivery period on the day or even a few days, making Express more attractive to shoppers who need to place orders earlier.
While Wal-Mart officially advertises Express as a “two-hour” delivery service, within weeks of the program being piloted, Wal-Mart was able to deliver those orders in an average of 56 minutes. For example, the company said: “In our tests, delivery costs $18.9 00 for delivery in 55 minutes or less.” “
Like Wal-Mart’s other grocery delivery services, Express’s delivery service is handled by Wal-Mart’s network of outside distribution partners, which vary from market to market. The retailer would not comment on whether these additional fees are split with partners or how they are split.
Such a system could cause a backlash when food and other critical goods are in short supply, given how it favors wealthier customers when food and other critical goods are in short supply. During the outbreak, store shelves were often empty, as consumers stocked up on items such as toilet paper, hand sanitizer and detergent.
In addition, the epidemic has exposed the income gap between those who can afford to shop online and low-income consumers, who can only use their SNAP benefits (food stamps) in brick-and-mortar stores — with the exception of a few state USDA pilot areas. Now, those who can afford it will have another advantage: pay for limited supplies first.
However, Wal-Mart says it is doing something to allay these types of concerns. For items with limited inventory, it does not guarantee delivery, and it is removing their availability from the online grocery service. In addition, the retailer said it would not push back standard shipping orders to accommodate high-paying courier customers. Instead, the courier service is based on Wal-Mart’s existing grocery delivery capacity.
Wal-Mart said the Express service was not launched because of the pandemic, but did play a role in the timing of the launch. “During the coronavirus pandemic, we saw the demand that forced us to move forward and accelerate the development of some of the services we might have been considering. A Wal-Mart spokesman explained. “But demand forces us to innovate faster. They added.
Wal-Mart isn’t the only company to experience a lot of online grocery orders because of the COVID-19 outbreak. The company and others have seen record downloads of grocery apps in recent weeks. In fact, demand for online grocery stores and other e-commerce orders is already so high that Wal-Mart has hired 150,000 new employees from more than 1 million applicants in a full six weeks and is now hiring 50,000.
Meanwhile, Wal-Mart’s online grocery rivals — Shipt, Instacart and Amazon have hired hundreds of thousands of new employees. Amazon has had to introduce waiting lists for new users of Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market. Instacart, on the other hand, has made several changes to its app to help better prioritize orders and open up more shipping windows.
As far as Wal-Mart is concerned, it is not entirely able to launch Express because of the addition of its new staff. The company has hired 74,000 “private buyers” to handle online grocery orders. Wal-Mart says Express is driven by these “private buyers”, but some of them may be new hires.
“Whatever life needs, we have the opportunity to serve our customers,” said Tom Ward, Wal-Mart’s senior vice president of products for customers. “Whether it’s last-minute ingredients, medicine for a fever, or what you don’t know you need when you check the household list, time matters. Express can solve this problem. “