Walmart launched Express Delivery service at nearly 1,000 stores. It will soon become available at almost 2,000 locations.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Walmart Inc. last week launched an express service that promises to deliver online orders in less than 2 hours.

Walmart, (No. 3 in the in the 2020 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000) says it accelerated the development of the service in response to widespread disruptions caused by COVID-19. Walmart started testing its new Express Delivery service in 100 stores in mid-April. The service will expand to nearly 1,000 stores in early May and a total of almost 2,000 in the following weeks, Walmart says.

“We know our customers’ lives have changed during this pandemic and so has the way they shop,” said Janey Whiteside, chief customer officer at Walmart, in a statement. 

Express Delivery allows customers to order across more than 160,000 products from Walmart’s food, consumables and general merchandise assortment. Items include groceries, everyday essentials, toys and electronics.

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Like Walmart’s existing curbside pickup and home delivery options, the new express service will follow no-contact protocols to improve safety. The retailer’s 74,000 personal shoppers—including shoppers hired specifically for Express Delivery—will pick and pack the customers’ orders. For delivery, Walmart will use its existing lineup of delivery providers. Those providers, which vary by market, include DoorDash and Postmates, a spokesman says.

As is the case with its existing pickup and delivery services, Walmart will sell items delivered via Express Delivery at in-store prices. But Express Delivery will cost $10 on top of the current delivery charge for each order. Members of Walmart’s Delivery Unlimited program—which offers unlimited home deliveries for a $98 annual fee or a monthly $12.95 fee—will simply pay a $10 fee for each express delivery. 

The retailer’s current delivery service requires shoppers to select an available time slot. As online grocery shopping has surged during the pandemic, many shoppers—not just Walmart customers, but also those using competing services such as Amazon.com Inc. (No. 1 in the Top 1000), Instacart Inc., FreshDirect LLC (No. 71) and Peapod—have found it challenging to secure convenient slots.

The 2-hour delivery service is just one of the ways Walmart has adapted its operations during the pandemic. Since March 19, Walmart says it hired 200,000 new workers in its stores, clubs, distribution centers and fulfillment centers. And on April 23, Walmart and social media channel Nextdoor Inc. launched a joint program called Neighbors Helping Neighbors, intended to help U.S. consumers assist their neighbors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program allows Nextdoor members to request assistance—or offer to help others in their communities—with shopping for their essential items at Walmart. The retailer and Nextdoor designed the program to provide a contact-free way for vulnerable community members to coordinate the pickup and delivery of their groceries, medications and other essentials with a neighbor who is already planning a shopping trip to a local Walmart store.

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Walmart joins 48 other Top 1000 retailers that offer same-day delivery, including Amazon.com Inc. (No. 1), Target Corp. (No. 12), Kroger Co. (No. 13), Macy’s Inc. (No. 15), and Costco Wholesale Corp. (No. 16).  

As of Jan. 1, Walmart operated 5,355 stores in the United States, including 3,571 Walmart Supercenters, 599 Sam’s Club warehouse clubs and other kinds of outlets.

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