Mar 28 - Wal-Mart is considering a plan to use store customers to deliver purchases to online customers- as a way to better compete with online retailers like Amazon. Bobbi Rebell reports.
These aren't just Wal-Mart customers- they could be Wal-Mart's new same day delivery team. Taking the concept of customer engagement to a whole new level, Wal-Mart is actually considering getting in-store customers to delivery products - to other customers who order stuff online. By putting their customers to work Wal-Mart would save on transportation costs and maybe get an edge on online retailers like Amazon- who don't have actual stores. S&P Capital IQ's Ian Gordon says while it may be far-fetched, he gives them credit for thinking outside the box: SOUNDBITE: IAN GORDON, EQUITY ANALYST, S&P CAPITAL IQ (ENGLISH) SAYING: "They have been investing pretty heavily in global e-commerce. They have established an office on the west coast, made a lot of hires so think this is you know probably one of the early outcomes of some of those investments and its probably just reflective of people out there being a little more creative maybe having hired some more creative minds to think of things that are a little bit more different." For their efforts- the customers would get a discount that Wal-Mart says would effectively cover their gas bill. Wal-Mart already delivers from 25 stores- and is looking to expand the program. They use professional delivery companies like FedEx and UPS or Wal-Mart's own delivery trucks for same day delivery. Those people are insured and screened. This plan, Wal-Mart tells Reuters, is kind of like those start up crowdsourcing businesses. They would be paying people to rent space in their vehicle and deliver packages. But Wal-Mart is not some trendy startup that can push the boundaries- and there are a lot of boundaries- from insurance to security to whether the product actually gets there. SOUNDBITE: IAN GORDON, EQUITY ANALYST, S&P CAPITAL IQ (ENGLISH) SAYING: "I think there are a lot of issues with this type of model. And you know the question is really are they trying to make a profit doing it or is this just a way for them to lower their costs of delivery and to be a little bit more competitive." Gordon does not think this will happen. We did a little crowdsourcing of our own here at Reuters to get reaction to the story- and it was highly skeptical. "It's the equivalent of asking people to work for free. Classic exploitation" "Rather than delivering the items, what stops the customers from keeping the products from themselves?" But a few- a very few- were open to the idea: "Credit check for anyone who signs up, if something gets stolen, boom goes on the charge card, and rewards can go on a debit card so they can be tracked as well.. Color me intrigued and impressed." To be fair- Wal-Mart is not committed to the concept. They said it's just at the brainstorming stage.