Crowd-sourcing delivery?


A student in my undergraduate logistics class this semester (ISyE 3103) shared with me an article about a preliminary plan for Walmart to crowd-source delivery of items purchased online.  Very interesting.

The idea in a nutshell:  a customer purchases from Walmart online, and the order is filled at a nearby store from stock, where a second customer making a purchase in the store is selected as an on-demand crowd-sourced courier.  In return for making the delivery, the second customer receives a discount on purchases.  Sure, there are going to be regulatory hurdles.  Sure, how you create a system not exploited by criminal actions is a challenge.   Still, an intriguing idea.

Over the past few years, I’ve worked with a couple of companies in the “sharing economy” space trying to provide ride-sharing and multi-modal ride-finding services to mobile customers; see Ridescout for an example.  And I originally got interested in this space via a friend who wanted to provide a private crowd-sourced courier network for point-to-point delivery of small parcels; he never got his idea off the ground.  So it is very intriguing that Walmart is now considering such a system.  Also of interest in the article is another startup called Zipments that does seem to already be providing crowd-sourced couriers in New York and Chicago.


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