The world’s largest brick-and-mortar retailer, Walmart, is today announcing its plans to test a “same-day” delivery service in select markets called “Walmart To Go.” The program, beginning now, will run through the holiday season and will be available in Northern Virginia (outside D.C.), Philadelphia, Minneapolis, and San Jose/San Francisco. During the test period, shoppers will be able to go online to shop for items like toys, electronics, sporting goods and other gifts, and then have them delivered to their address on the same day.
Walmart is charging a $10 fee for an unlimited number of items, with no minimum purchase required, and is working with UPS to deliver the orders. To get started, users in the supported markets first visit www.walmart.com/togo and enter in their delivery address in order to create an account. They can then browse the “Walmart To Go” selection of goods specific to their location – in other words, it’s not the entire Walmart online catalog that’s becoming available. The eligible items will be priced the same as those in the local stores.
In fact, the items available are sourced from local stores for order fulfillment during this test. Customers can place orders up until noon in their timezone, and then choose a 4-hour windows to take delivery that same day (i.e., 4-8 pm, 5-9 pm, 6-10 pm). For returns, customers can choose to take the item back to the store, refuse delivery, or schedule the courier to retrieve the time.
The test is an extension of the “Walmart To Go” grocery delivery service first launched in San Jose/San Francisco in April 2010, but expands on that to offer general merchandise. The announcement comes at a time when several online retailers, big and small, are beginning to experiment with local same-day delivery options.
For example, in August, eBay invited San Francisco residents to test a similar service called eBay Now. But more importantly, it comes at a time when Amazon has been pegged as considering a same-day option as well. In July, Amazon CFO Tom Szkutak downplayed speculation on the matter, saying that the company doesn’t see a way to do same-day delivery on a broad scale economically. That doesn’t mean it won’t, of course, do it on a small scale. Even startups are attempting to tackle the same-day delivery market, with companies like Postmates, Shutl (in the UK), and Y Combinator-backed Instacart (founded by an ex-Amazon Supply Chain engineer) attempting to make same-day delivery a possibility.
The launch dates for Walmart’s program are as follows:
Walmart said the current cities were chosen based on where the retailer felt it could best fulfill orders using local stores. This is said to be a holiday test, and it does not have a particular end date at this point.
Walmart’s test is interesting, because it sees the retail giant leveraging its local stores, not distribution centers, as the source for its online orders. Of course, those plans could change in time if the system proved successful.
The company said that it decided to move to test this service following an a customer survey which asked respondents if they would consider a same-day delivery option if it was available, and over half said they would use the feature monthly or even more frequently. The customers also said that electronics, toys, video games, movies, music, books and groceries would be those items that they wanted to order in this way the most.
Now Walmart is testing to see if customers’ stated interest equates with true demand. “This is truly a test and meant for us to learn,” explains Amy Lester, Walmart’s PR Director for its Global eCommerce operations. “We’ll be constantly listening to our customers throughout the holiday test to better understand what they want, and we’ll use this feedback to determine our success.”