Retailers Respond to Customer Delivery Expectations

By Alex Batty, MHI Marketing Communications Coordinator |@mhi_alex

Obviously this topic has been on my mind lately (see Tuesday and Wednesday), since I’ve been ordering new stuff for my apartment (I’m finally getting some furniture, y’all!), but the last couple days have kind of been “take a deep breath and push through the panic” as we talk about the A-word.

(…Amazon. Get your mind out of the gutter.)

But retailers are responding to the pressures Amazon’s innovations are putting on supply chain delivery and it could be really good for both retailers and consumers.

For example, Walmart recently(ish) filed a patent application that is similar to the Amazon Dash program. The idea is that it would use an IoT platform to track product use and eventually help them order without user interaction, a change from Amazon Dash’s buttons that have to be pressed.

I know that it sounds super lazy for people to complain about pushing a button, but if the point to for busy people (I’m really imagining mom’s here) to be able to keep essentials in stock without thinking about it, eliminating the button push makes a lot of sense.

This is a move on Walmart’s part from focusing on their stores to moving more directly into consumer’s homes. But the move could benefit the retailer and the consumer. The consumer doesn’t have to worry about keeping essentials in stock, and the platform could theoretically save them money, and Walmart gains data that could help with cross-selling efforts.

Another familiar supermarket brand, Target, is starting to test a next-day home delivery service called Target Restock. The program is currently being tested with Target employees, but will move this summer to a pilot program for customers in the Minneapolis area.

Eligible REDCard customers will be able to visit an online portal to access the service and buy household essentials. In their announcement, Target used language that caught my attention. The line “fill a box with multiple items and have their orders shipped to their homes for a low, flat fee” seems like a direct response to Amazon’s Prime Pantry program, which is essentially the same idea for the same types of goods. (I don’t do Prime Pantry, if you’re wondering. I haven’t drunk that much Kool-Aid. Plus, Walmart is still typically cheaper, and I don’t like paying for shipping after being used to free Prime. I’m petty, sue me.)

The point is, even though Amazon started the idea (and I don’t know how successful it is for them), it could be a really good thing for Target to adapt. The products that typically qualify for Prime Pantry are Target’s bread and butter. If they can offer a competitive price and provide the same service, they’ll pull customer’s back to their base. And Target shoppers are nothing if not dedicated.

(Seriously, I cannot tell you how many times my Target friends have looked at me funny when I say my go-to is Walmart. They say they’d rather spend a little more to avoid Walmart people. They will pass a Walmart to get to a Target. I just love being cheap too much.)

Asides aside, I’m certainly not an economist (I haven’t taken math since 2009), but from what I understand, competition in our mixed economy that takes pride in the supply and demand model is a good thing. That’s the American Dream, right? That if you make something good, something people will demand, and create a supply of it, you’ll be okay.

At least we can rest easy that there should always be a demand for supply chain. They demand and we get them their supplies. The face of the supply chain might change, but people will always want their stuff.