In recent years, the major changes in mainstream retail have happened online. Consumers are taking quickly to shopping from their couches, with speed of delivery steadily decreasing. However, the latest development for America’s ‘big box’ retail industry is happening (partly) offline.
Walmart, Amazon, and eBay, among others, are trying something different. These companies are fighting to revolutionize ordering. They’re starting to implement same-day delivery – where things ordered online show up at customers’ doors in a matter of hours. What makes this possible? The creation of mobile workforces to carry out this specific arm of their business. For this type of fulfillment, stores must begin to serve as both retail locations and small warehouses for local deliveries.
Last week, a Wired article broke down the process of how Walmart fills one of these same-day orders.
1. The order is placed online. Selection is limited by the inventory at your local store.
2. An Hour Later: Workers must fill the order in under a few hours. At the store, a ‘picker,’ specifically working on same-day orders, pushes a cart down the aisle, placing items in different bins.
3. 3-6 Hours Later: Walmart trucks carry orders from the store to customers’ houses.
eBay’s new same-day service is called eBay Now. Currently active in San Francisco and New York, the ordering process happens over an iPhone of Web app. The program involves partnering with Macy’s, Target, Office Depot, and Best Buy so that an Ebay Now ‘Valet’ delivers it on the same day for a fee of $5. Their team of valets operates like bike messengers. Dispatched from a central hub, they move all around the city, shopping in stores for items ordered over the app and delivering them immediately.
Amazon already has same-day delivery in place in nearly 10 cities. Now, the online retail giant is opening warehouses across the country, and is looking to greatly expand the range of their same-day delivery. To do this, they will be building massive warehouses in the backyards of every major region on the US. In total, Amazon will spend about $500 million and hire 10,000 people to staff its new warehouses in California. Amazon is also in talks of automated ‘delivery lockers’ at certain affiliate retailers such as Staples and 7-Eleven, and drug stores. These would be drop off points where it’s mobile workforce would drop orders throughout the day for customers who live in close proximity to the locker locations.
These distribution models require a lot of moving parts. Each one is different, but from pickers and delivery trucks to dispatchers and couriers, mobile, distributed workforces are making it all possible.