E‑commerce managers over at Amazon might be feeling an icy chill down the back of their necks if a rumored new development at Walmart comes to fruition.
Readers picking up news stories here while searching for media jobs might have noticed that the focus is often on up-an-coming companies; but sometimes the big beasts come up with initiatives with the potential to be game-changers for everyone. If it materializes, Walmart’s initiative could be just such a critter.
Essentially, it’s planning to capitalize on something Amazon simply doesn’t have: in-store customers. The idea? Offer in-store visitors a discount on their purchases if they agree to deliver a same-day package to a Walmart e‑customer on the way home.
It’s fair to say that the idea is at an exceptionally early stage of planning and for the time being Walmart is keeping schtum. But anyone with a little e‑commerce media jobs experience could probably spot that it’s a new twist on the crowdsourcing business model.
There are, however, some formidable difficulties to be ironed out before this little monster gets to see the light of day. Karen E. Edwards, an e‑retailing expert from the University of South Carolina, explains:
“Walmart would want to have a proof-of-delivery system, as well as a written agreement with the delivery person that includes a reimbursement clause if the goods are damaged or not delivered. That would probably have a chilling effect on some people who otherwise might have performed the service, but would also reduce the likelihood of theft.”
A liability maze
The bottom line, she added, is this: “Walmart would most likely be held ultimately liable to the online customer for delivery of the product, because it developed the delivery mode.”
The company would also need to find a way of establishing that such delivery persons are not Walmart employees and aren’t entitled to Worker’s Compensation, Edwards continued, and there’d need to be a waiver to release Walmart from liability if the deliverer got injured during the errand. The problem, as Edwards noted, is that these releases are far from bullet-proof.
These are the kind of problems to induce shortness of breath in corporate attorneys. But if Walmart succeeds in puling this rabbit out of the hat, e‑commerce managers take note, the face of e‑commerce could be about to change.