Walmart adds to its last-mile arsenal with acquisition of startup assets


AUTHOR Jeff Wells@JeffWellsWH PUBLISHED Nov. 24, 2020 Retail dive

Dive Brief:

  • Walmart plans to acquire assets, including talent, technology and intellectual property, from JoyRun, a startup that runs a peer-to-peer last-mile delivery service, according to a LinkedIn post by Srini Venkatesan, executive vice president at Walmart Global Tech. The deal is set to close "in the coming weeks," according to the post, and JoyRun employees will be part of Walmart’s supply chain technology team.

  • JoyRun facilitates the delivery of restaurant, grocery and other orders between community members, with users able to request items and have them filled by a friend or neighbor for free or for a set fee. The company has 540 merchant partners and more than 30,000 people have delivered orders since it launched in 2015.

  • Walmart continues to build out its last-mile technology as it launches autonomous vehicle pilots, signs on with additional third-party delivery firms and expands its delivery, including express services, to more stores.

Dive Insight: It’s not clear from the announcement exactly how Walmart plans to utilize JoyRun’s personnel and technology, but in his post, Venkatesan indicated the people who perform deliveries for the company, or "runners," could become part of the company’s patchwork last-mile workforce. Walmart currently contracts delivery to third-party firms like Roadie and Postmates and also operates its own delivery platform, Spark, that utilizes self-employed drivers in around 40 states. In the years since it began offering delivery, Walmart has parted ways with a couple delivery companies, including Deliv, Uber and Skipcart, meaning the company may be looking to bring more delivery resources in-house. "This acquisition allows us to further augment our team and ongoing efforts to explore even more ways to deliver for customers in the future," Venkatesan wrote. "For instance, Runners could complement our Spark program and 3rd party delivery providers."

Unlike other gig-economy delivery firms that promote side hustle and extra earnings, JoyRun positions its service as a casual, community experience. Runners can pick up groceries for others when they’re making their own trip, or grab an extra cup of coffee for someone who requests it. JoyRun connects people inside geographic areas and allows them to chat, plan and send notifications when they’re making trips. Runners can charge for delivering orders or offer them for free.

The startup has gotten a boost during the pandemic. In March, it announced it had reached 1 million deliveries and was expanding its service nationwide after seeing the bulk of its activity on college campuses, military bases and in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Walmart has tested a variety of delivery models, including autonomous delivery, which is currently running in a couple markets, and delivery by associates after their shift has ended. The company has expanded same-day delivery from 1,600 stores in February to around 2,700 currently, according to data compiled by Rabobank. It also offers pickup from around 3,500 locations.

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