Walmart Trumps Amazon with Drone Patent Applications
Walmart the brick-and-mortar stalwart and Amazon the online retail behemoth, both have been battling to offer consumers speedier delivery options with tit-for-tat investments in high-tech delivery capabilities — including drones.
- In 2018, Walmart edged out arch-rival Amazon when it came to filing for drone technology patents.
- Walmart filed 56 requests, while Amazon filed 54.
- These initiatives reflect the changing nature of retail and consumers’ “want it now” mentality.
Amazon in April announced it would invest $800 million to cut free delivery time for Prime members down to a day.
Three weeks later, Walmart launched its own free next-day delivery service. “Customer expectations continue to rise,” Marc Lore, CEO of Walmart’s U.S. e-commerce division told The Associated Press at the time. “We’re trying to get ahead of that.”
Tony Spillet, National head of technology and Media for BDO told CBS MoneyWatch, “It doesn’t surprise me that Walmart and some others are armouring up with their patents and control over their technology because clearly they see drone-based delivery as part of their future plans,”
Spillet noted that Walmart -in spite of Its large network of stores is aiming to cut people from the cost of delivery by providing drone delivery options.
Earlier this month, Amazon said it would start delivering packages to customers using drones “within months”. Jeff Wilke, chief executive of the company’s Worldwide Consumer division, said its drones would be able to deliver goods in a 15-mile range within 30 minutes.
Walmart had a comeback – it is launching its own grocery delivery subscription service called “Delivery Unlimited,” as per reports from TechCrunch. Earlier shoppers could order groceries online and pick them up at their local store for free or they could choose to pay $9.95 per-order. Now, Delivery Unlimited will offer customers a way to skip the per-order fee by subscribing monthly or annually.
- Delivery Unlimited offers a $12.95 per month plan or a $98 per year subscription, both of which include a 15-day trial period.
- Walmart currently offers grocery pickup at 2,450 locations and delivery at nearly 1,000 locations and is on track to offer pickup at 3,100 stores with delivery offered at 1,600 by the end of 2019.
- Delivery Unlimited is currently available in four cities, company spokeswoman Molly Blakeman told Grocery Dive: Houston, Miami, Salt Lake City and Tampa, Florida. She said the company is “constantly testing new concepts” to improve its pickup and delivery service.
- Delivery Unlimited is a third grocery e-commerce buying option offered by Walmart. To promote its new unlimited service, Walmart is offering a free 15-day trial in markets where it’s available, according to TechCrunch.
Walmart’s standard $10 delivery service fee coupled with a $30 order minimum makes economic sense for the retailer, and it promotes the sort of stock-up shopping trip that a lot of its customers like to do. Walmart currently uses third-party companies like DoorDash and Roadie to ferry groceries from its stores to shoppers’ homes. Walmart orders could be taking flight soon as the company is on track to file more drone patents than Amazon for the second year in a row, reported The Financial Times.
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