Walmart to test in-home delivery program

Remember when you had to go down to the mailbox or onto your doorstep to pick up items you ordered online?

If a program Walmart is testing takes off, people may be asking that question within the next several years. The program will allow delivery drivers to leave packages inside a customer’s home, and groceries in the fridge or freezer, TechCrunch reports.

“…we want to do more in the future by delivering groceries and other orders in whatever location works best for our customers – inside the house for some and in the fridge/freezer in the garage for others,” said Sloan Eddleston, Vice President of Walmart’s eCommerce Strategy & Business Operations, in the official announcement.

When the delivery driver arrives at a participant’s home, he will enter a one-time passcode on an August Home smart lock to gain entry. Walmart says customers will be able to watch the driver enter and move around in their houses via a video feed on their smartphones. When the driver exits the home, the door will lock automatically.

Walmart has hired same-day delivery service Deliv to perform the deliveries themselves. Sam’s Club, a Walmart affiliate, partnered with Deliv in March 2016 to test a grocery delivery program.

This most recent pilot program will be available in Silicon Valley to a select group of August Home users who have chosen to participate. As TechCrunch points out, if the program is successful, Walmart may expand the list of supported smart-home providers beyond August Home.

TechCrunch further notes that Walmart has not indicated how long the program will run, nor whether the company intends to expand the trial to locales outside of Silicon Valley.

Walmart says it has designed the test to gauge how much customers are willing to pay for the service. The company has yet to disclose a pricing model.

Walmart has partnered with smart-home companies to enhance delivery operations in the past. In June, online retailer jet.com, which Walmart acquired in August 2016, teamed with Latch to install high-tech lockboxes on the front doors of 1,000 apartment buildings. Among other functions, the system allows customers to remotely grant access to their apartment complex so that drivers can deliver packages even when the customer is not home.

In its continued effort to keep pace with online retail giants like Amazon, Walmart has experimented with other augmentations to its delivery operations, TechCrunch notes. The company offered a discount to customers who had online orders shipped to Walmart stores, and tried allowing in-store employees to deliver packages from the store to customers’ homes.

In emulation of Amazon Prime, Walmart instituted a two-day shipping option that is free for rewards members.

In June 2016, the company tested a system whereby Uber and Lyft drivers delivered groceries to customers’ homes. Customers ordered groceries online, paying a $7 to $10 delivery fee. Then, a Walmart employee culled the requested items from the shelves, placed them in a bag, and called an Uber or Lyft driver to pick the order up from the store and deliver it to the customer’s home.

Meanwhile, Amazon—arguably Walmart’s chief competitor—is making its own efforts to cut delivery times. Through that company’s Prime Now program, customers can have tens of thousands of items delivered to their doors in less than an hour.

Amazon also offers grocery delivery and one-hour restaurant delivery through its Prime membership program

Moreover, the company is testing autonomous drones that can deliver items weighing under five pounds in 30 minutes or less. Last December, as part of a pilot program in the UK, Amazon completed its first drone delivery. The company says it is working with regulators to get Prime Air, as the service is called, off the ground around the world.

Featured image via Hurlburt Field

Amazon’s Beehive to House Delivery Drones

Amazon’s recent innovations to further develop their delivery system and overall business model have resulted in beehive-shaped drone centers. Amazon envisions cities around the U.S. having vertical drone centers that enable the online retailer to coordinate quick and efficient deliveries through the use of unmanned drones. By establishing distribution centers that act as relay points for aerial deliveries, Amazon is continually progressing itself forward while still maintain a lean supply chain.

Amazon has filed for a patent for “multi-level fulfillment centers” that accommodate the landing and takeoff of drones in dense urban settings. Initial designs of the centers display tall cylindrical buildings that would be located in central metropolitan areas, with freight dock and customer pick-up locations on the ground floors, while the upper floor locations are dedicated to drone storage and human operator space.

The centers allow Amazon to shift away from the traditional model of large warehouses that act as both distribution centers and storage facilities for packages before they are shipped to customers. These distribution centers are typically located on the outskirts of urban areas, making them insufficient and inconvenient for deliveries into cities with growing populations.

Furthermore, there are usually fewer distributions centers that hold larger quantities of stock, requiring constant use in order to ensure lower waste costs. Travel times are then depended on the location of distribution centers, which lowers consistency and can lead to an increase in cost pertaining to drivers and vehicle maintenance.

Location in the centers of cities enables a faster delivery even in cities with growing populations and enables ready access to onsite labor while also requiring lower costing rent rates and less waste costs. The centers are predicted to fulfill hundreds of thousands of orders a day by relying on a large volume of drones that continually pick up deliveries to either deliver straight to the customer or to their nearest drone center. Drone centers will have battery recharging stations allowing for short downtimes, maximizing the amount of time possible to be spent delivery packages.

Due to the large amount of overview management required, the drone centers will have a central command center to control flight operations, similar to command centers utilized by airports. While fully stocked to facilitate their new emphasis and priority on drone delivery, the drone centers are designed to include for traditional vehicle deliveries, as potentially an onsite customer location, considering the central urban location allowing for more readily accessible storing capabilities.

Obstacles that Amazon will face regarding their new drone centers focus on a range of regulatory commercial drone laws, including attempts to control their movement and local zoning and development laws. Foreseeing this, Amazon partnered up with the British government to run tests exploring the viability of small package drone delivery. Amazon later reported that its test was successful, providing support that could overcome drone delivery regulations.

While Amazon is still working on their drone centers, the company continues to strategize and constantly improve their supply chain, through further development and innovation. Amazon have also filed a patent for flying warehouses called “airborne fulfillment centers.” These would solve the problem of traditional distribution centers being located on the outskirts of urban areas, allowing the storage facilities to be more readily accessible. In tandem with this patent, Amazon are looking into parachute-aided delivery of packages, reducing drone flight time while maintaining delivery times, further progressing their supply chain to be most efficient.

Skeptics have argued that the barrage of drone-related patents has been utilized to accumulate free publicity over innovating their supply chain. Were this the case, Amazon may face some backlash should publicity be their only intended goal. Regardless of their reasons, the projected innovations certainly cast a vision on the future of package delivery and acts as a great example for companies seeking to grow.

Amazon Special Delivery in the UK; By Drone?

Prime Air, the beginning of a new Amazon service, made its first test run. Amazon delivered its first package by drone in the United Kingdom. Amazon has begun pilot testing drones for future delivery purposes.

With permission from the Civil Aviation Authority in Britain, the first test flight of Amazons delivery drones took place a few miles away from a drone testing site near Cambridge.  This new service is going to be for the delivery of packages that weigh up to five pounds and will take less than thirty minutes.

The only two trial customers for this new service has only be tested on two customers who happen to live not too far from the testing site. The most recent delivery was for an Amazon Fire TV and a bag of popcorn, which took the drone around thirteen minutes to accomplish.

Since Amazon gained the United Kingdom’s approval in summer 2016, the company says it plans to start expanding its tests to rural areas. That is once its collected all the necessary security information for expanding its drone deliveries. Drone deliveries will be weather dependent and strictly available during the day. Whether Amazon drones will be taking flight in the U.S., all depends on the approval of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Domino’s Japan to Use Reindeer for Delivery

As the holiday season begins to roll in, Domino’s in Japan has begun to experiment with having reindeer deliver pizza to customers during the cold winter months. The company released video of employees leading a reindeer around the parking lot with delivery boxes on its back. Later, the reindeer were attached to red sleighs. The staff would be able to monitor the reindeer using map with a little picture of the reindeer’s head to show the animal’s location.

Although the idea sounds interesting, it may be short lived. The boxes slipped off the reindeer’s back and employees had difficulty keeping up with the animals. Domino’s Japan announced in a statement that this method is just one of many in the company’s “Pizza delivery action plan” and that they are working to ensure the safety of the animals. Domino’s Japan has also set up a “snowfall delivery measures room” where weather conditions and snowfall will be tested for expected winter conditions.

Japan is not the only country where Domino’s is experimenting with delivery methods. In New Zealand, a couple received their order via drone. The company believes that drones will be a good method of delivery since they are the technology of the future and will prove faster take away methods. In the UK, pizzas can be delivered by buoy.

Since Domino’s first opened its doors in Japan in 1985, the company has made its consumers top priority. Domino’s even adopted the title of “world’s fastest pizza maker”. Along with that title the company continues to expand its methods of order and delivery. Customers area able to order through the Domino’s app by using a pizza emoji, they can order via Twitter, and through text. Due to the high winds of the Caribbean Islands, pizzas are delivered by truck instead of motorcycle.

Groupon Acquires OrderUp

Groupon has acquired OrderUp, a food delivery service that caters to over 40 cities and 25 states in the United States.

The price of the deal was disclosed, but the six-year-old food service company, which claims to have served over 10 million people, couldn’t have come with a cheap price tag.

Groupon saw a slow decline in the past few years as the “daily deal” concept, making the company thrive, got some competition.

CEO of Groupon Eric Lefkofsky said,

“The potential in delivery and takeout is apparent –especially with the growth of mobile – and OrderUp’s operational ability, coupled with Groupon’s engaged customer and merchant base, bring tremendous scale to the space.”

The company has long since been established in the coupon giving business, ideal for large groups of people who are on a budget.

What makes OrderUp different from its competitors such as GrubHub and Eat 24 Hours is that it has its own delivery system.

OrderUp allows for restaurants who don’t normally deliver to have drivers do it for them; this is especially the case for places that don’t have enough staff or the capability to set it up. Without this feature, restaurants limit themselves to only certain cliental and the money that’s to be made off of delivery costs.

Owner of Di Pasquale’s Marketplace Joe Di Pasquale said,

“When I heard about OrderUp, I was very hesitant. Customers asked us all the time about delivery. However we didn’t have the staff or know-how to organize our own delivery service. OrderUp is the perfect fit for Di Pasquale’s. It’s the easiest way to start a delivery service. Honestly, I should have done it earlier.”

OrderUp uses contracted drivers who can either accept or deny a potential delivery based on their own hours.

In the announcement, OrderUp wrote that Orlando and Cincinnati will be two of the newest cities to have access to the delivery service.

Revolution Ventures managing partner Tige Savage, who is an investor in OrderUp said,

“Consumers love the convenience of ordering online. Yet, outside the major metropolitan markets, its shockingly difficult to find online food delivery options.”

OrderUp sees this acquisition as a great opportunity for the company to expand its outreach.

CEO of OrderUp Christ Jeffery said,

“Groupon’s reach and ability to connect supply and demand at scale make it the perfect destination for us to grow even faster and expand in our targeted local markets. We look forward to bringing the thousands of great restaurants that we feature to hungry Groupon customers across the country.”

Despite the acquisition, OrderUp will still function as a standalone company and will keep their headquarters which are set in Baltimore. This will all be done while still promoting themselves through Groupon’s merchant pages, called Pages, which were created in 2014.

In a press release, it’s described as giving users access to

“ratings, tips, money-saving opportunities and other useful information for local businesses in the United States.”

The feature is similar to that of Yelp and will be a great feature to help promote OrderUp.

This is not the first combination between food delivery services. GrubHub and Seamless are two takeout food establishments that primarily generate business through computer and phone.

The thing that makes this merging of Groupon and OrderUp so different is that they are each bringing something to the table, with Groupon having a background in a variety of deals and OrderUp’s delivery feature.

Image: Via OrderUp

Amazon Plans to Upgrade their Delivery System

Amazon is working to recruit everyday people to deliver packages to its shoppers. The way it would work is that everyday people could pick up the packages from certain shopping locations and then the person would deliver it.

According to The Wall Street Journal, who broke the story, this is just in the beginning stages of being discussed, and internally the company isn’t even sure if it will launch. It is clear that there would be a lot of things to work out when planning this: delivery time, availability, paying their delivery people and the interview process alone to make sure that the person was qualified to do it.

This business model is similar to that of Uber, which has come with its own set of problems.

According to The Wall Street Journal,

“Last year, Amazon briefly tested delivering packages in San Francisco via yellow cabs and Uber vehicles, paying about $5 per parcel. It was a limited experiment to gauge the feasibility and cost of such deliveries and wasn’t expanded, people familiar with the matter said.”

This was back in November, and at the time Amazon had reportedly been working on strategies to get packages as quickly and effectively to shoppers. The budding idea is being referred to as “On My Way.”

Amazon has come a long way with their delivery services, including memberships for two-day shipping and same or next day delivery of groceries. However, all of these deliveries come at a price.

According to The Wall Street Journal,

“The fee structure for ‘On My Way’ was recently still being worked out including whether Amazon would pay with cash or credits to be used on its website, the people said.”

The price of delivery would also be a concern, as well as how the packages would arrive to the delivery people. This type of delivery will not interfere with the drone delivery that Amazon has been working on for over a year and a half.

With this type of delivery, Quartz reported that,

“The company has previously said it wants to be able to deliver packages to members of its Prime discount shipping club within 30 minutes of an order.”

This has come with its own mess of problems, like clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration. As of now, Amazon has same-day delivery in Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, New York, San Francisco, Washington, Los Angeles, Dallas, Indianapolis and many others.

For Prime customers who spent over $35, delivery is free. For Prime customers who spent under $35, there’s a charge of $5.99 per order and for non-prime users, the cost is $8.99, and then an additional $0.99 per item.

Along with these prices are also deadline restrictions, so pay attention before you place your order.

According to Gizmodo,

“The key is for Amazon to be able to conduct lighting-fast cost-savings analysis for each outgoing package: It’s not only deciding which deliveries to bundle into a single cab, geographically, but also how long to hold certain packages before they should simply go out in a cab alone.”

Amazon has discussed their employees picking up the packages from their fulfillment centers. As of now, Amazon has these centers in places like Arizona, Kansas, California, Nevada, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Texas and several others.

Amazon has big dreams for its company and delivery systems, there are still a lot of things that need to be worked out. Although these dreams could benefit a lot of shoppers in the future, it seems that we will be waiting a while to reap the benefits.