May 12, 2020
By Janey Whiteside, Chief Customer Officer, Walmart, and Suresh Kumar, Global Technology Officer and Chief Development Officer, Walmart
Walmart recently debuted Express delivery, a new service to deliver goods to our customers in under two hours. Here’s why we chose to roll this service out now and how our own internally developed technology helped make it happen quickly when America needed it.
The coronavirus pandemic has upended life as we knew it and has also changed how our customers shop, with many American families sheltering in place and relying heavily on online deliveries. Customers all over the world are testing the limits of no-contact shopping from curbside pickup to delivery options – not just for convenience, but for their own health. Our mission to save our customers time and money in order to allow them to live better rings true now more than ever.
Express delivery is one of Walmart’s no-contact pickup and delivery options to allow customers to get the items they need without coming into the store. Express delivery eligible items from Walmart, including groceries, electronics, toys and other essential items are available to customers for a surplus $10 over Walmart’s typical delivery fees of $7.95 or $9.95, depending on the time of day. We can get the item from our door to yours within two hours. Whether it’s “oh no, my child has a fever!” or “oh no, I forgot the birthday candles!” time matters. Thanks to our 74,000 personal shoppers who collect the customers’ orders and deliver them to their doorsteps in time.
When placing an Online Grocery order, the customer journey typically begins with choosing a date and time slot. For Express, we present the option for faster delivery in real time while the customer is going through checkout. It’s a simple option that customers can easily see, but there’s a ton of technology working behind the scenes in order to determine if that option should be presented to the customer.
Using machine learning and sophisticated algorithms developed by our Global Technology team, we’re able to consider thousands of variables, such as the number of items in an order, staffing, the types of delivery vehicles available and estimated drive times between our store and a customer’s address. We even pull in data for current weather conditions when estimating just how quickly we can deliver the order. The timing of how quickly orders are first prepared and then delivered become learning signals that feed back into our algorithms, so we can further improve our timing estimates for future orders.
Rolling out this new feature required coordination and agility in order to build a solution as fast as possible. By empowering a core team of people from tech, business, product and design, we successfully tested, released and scaled this capability in just one agile sprint over two weeks. As we continue to add new machine learning-driven capabilities like this in the future, as well as the corresponding customer experiences, we’ll be able to iterate and scale quickly by leveraging the flexible technology platforms we’ve developed.
As we’re all adjusting to the new normal, juggling between various aspects of our lives, we know our customers are busier than ever, and we don’t foresee them having more time on their hands in the near future either. While there are many uncertainties that surround us, we know Walmart will continue to innovate to serve customers, while keeping them and our associates safe. Looking ahead, we will continue to improve and build seamless customer shopping experiences. We want to be there for our customers to meet their needs as well as spark joy and comfort during stressful times.