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.