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Walmart revamps staff delivery trial and launches new grocery pickup tech

Walmart has ended a trial it launched in June of last year where it used store staff to deliver goods to customers.

The trial meant staff could earn extra cash by delivering packages for the retailer – generally on their way home from work. The company said at the time it would cut shipping costs, speed up delivery times and mean more money in their pocket for staff.

However in reports this week the company confirmed it ended the original pilot in January with staff reportedly unhappy with what they were earning. Instead the company is testing a scaled-back service using just four employees delivering groceries and related items such as paper plates from a single store in Woodstock according to Reuters.

Niklas Hedin, CEO at delivery management company Centiro, said that despite the scaled-back pilot other retailers should be exploring their last-mile options in a similar way to Walmart. “Some may see this as a battle lost, but Walmart is determined to win the wider war around last-mile delivery.

Although Walmart has halted this trial, its development of the scheme shows it has far from given up on its longer-term mission to seize control of deliveries. By reclaiming some responsibility from carriers, retailers like Walmart can ensure they do not lose control of the last mile; allowing them to create a robust full-circle customer experience, and provide the confidence to know they are in control of their own destiny,” he said.

Walmart has also revealed the launch of a new associate facing automation technology as part of the launch of Online Grocery Pickup at one of its New Hampshire stores. The company is using Alphabot, a new pilot launched with startup Alert Innovation, which will automatically bring items from storage to associates who will consolidate items in the order ready for pickup by the customer. The system is housed in a new 20,000 sq ft extension of the Salem store which will also serve as a dedicated grocery pickup point with drive- through lanes for customers.

When completed automated mobile carts will retrieve ordered items stored warehouse style and deliver to associates at one of four pick stations. Produce and fresh items will still be handpicked however. The new service will be online and running by the end of the year and the company said it also plans grocery delivery from the store too.

Image credit: Walmart