In its latest attempt to keep up with Amazon’s indomitable hold on the e-commerce space, Walmart has announced it’s introducing two-hour delivery for nearly 2,000 stores in the coming weeks.
The announcement follows a pilot program of the service at 100 stores that began in mid-April. In a statement, Walmart’s chief customer officer Janey Whiteside said that the covid-19 expedited the service’s debut. As with its existing pick-up and delivery options, the company said that two-hour delivery will also be no contact, meaning you can order through an app and the delivery can be made without person-to-person interaction. Two-hour delivery will be available for roughly 160,000 items, the company said, including groceries and things like household essentials and electronics.
Walmart will charge $US10 ($15) on top of its existing delivery charge for most online orders, though Walmart’s Delivery Unlimited customers will only have to pay a flat $US10 ($15) fee per Express order. Amazon’s offered express delivery for years, including for Whole Foods grocery ordering. Unlike Walmart, however, Amazon offers two-hour delivery options to its Prime members for free. The company previously charged $US15 ($23) per month for its grocery delivery service Amazon Fresh but made the option free to Prime members late last year.
The service is Walmart’s latest attempt to take on Amazon’s massive market dominance. Back in February, Walmart confirmed it was gearing up to launch a Prime competitor called Walmart+, though Recode reported at the time that Walmart’s premium subscription service would offer some perks that Amazon currently doesn’t, potentially including discounted fuel or prescription drugs at its pharmacies.
The company did not immediately return a request for comment on how two-hour delivery would fit into the service’s ecosystem. But Recode reported that Walmart+ was “expected to essentially launch as a rebrand” of its Delivery Unlimited program, in which case it’s possible these customers would still be asked to pay a flat fee for Express.
Walmart launching this service right now makes a lot of sense, and launching with a not-insignificant price tag does too. Hell, people are paying $US20 ($31) just to rent movies at home. Consumers will absolutely be willing to pay a flat fee for faster delivery, if for no other reason than many non-subscribers already are on other delivery services.
The coronavirus crisis and a lack of a vaccine have created an environment where more people in the U.S. are ordering groceries online than ever before, so much so that food delivery services like Instacart are hiring hundreds of thousands of workers to meet the unprecedented demand. Walmart says that it’s already hired additional personal shoppers specifically for Express, bringing its total number of personal shoppers to 74,000.