One lesson that the retail sector has learned in recent years - sometimes painfully - is that the shift to a hybrid online/offline shopping world is hugely dependent on successful delivery and fulfilment capabilities, capabilities that haven’t always been available to vendors of all sizes. While the Amazons of the world have the logistics tech in place, the ‘mom and pop’ stores on Main Street often don’t have access to the same resources.
It’s interesting then to see Walmart announcing a tie-up with Salesforce to offer its GoLocal and Store Assist services to third party retailers. Go Local was launched in August 2021 to enable retailers to make local, same day deliveries. It currently operates out of 1,600 locations in the US. Meanwhile Store Assist is an app that enables firms to use their stores as local fulfillment centers and deliver services such as Buy Online, Pick-up In Store (BOPIS).
Both GoLocal and Store Assist will now be available on Salesforce’s AppExchange, enabling retailers to orchestrate fulfillment and delivery in the same place they access Salesforce’s Commerce Cloud and Order Management offerings. According to Anshu Bhardwaj, SVP of Technology Strategy and Commercialization for Walmart Global Technology:
Through this partnership, retailers can leverage the same innovative and scalable technologies that power Walmart’s pickup and delivery experiences. The same technology that powers Store Assist has enabled Walmart to fulfill over 830 million orders across over 4,700 Walmart stores. Together with Salesforce, retailers can scale their business and deliver the personalized, convenient experiences shoppers expect.
Salesforce placed emphasis on the integrated nature of the tie-up as part of the omni-channel retail experience. Rob Garf, General Manager of Retail at Salesforce, said:
Shoppers continue to expect brands to deliver highly connected and frictionless experiences across physical and digital touch points. In fact, one in five online orders placed the weekend before Christmas were picked up in store. With the combined power of Walmart and Salesforce, retailers can drive success with best-in-class technology to advance their omni-channel capabilities, drive efficiency, and ensure that every purchase quickly gets into the hands of the shopper — no matter where they are.
The Walmart/Salesforce announcement comes only a few days after Amazon committed to expanding its own Buy with Prime offering. Launched last April, this empowers merchants to offer free and next-day delivery as well as free returns to Prime customers. To date it’s been an invitation-only offering, but from the end of this month, any e-commerce retailer will be able to offer Prime fulfillment services, even those that do not sell via Amazon’s website.
In addition to this, BigCommerce has become the first e-commerce platform provider to announce a self-service Buy with Prime app that can be integrated with BigCommerce storefronts. Users will be able to manage their Buy with Prime catalogs, track order information and set up Amazon-linked checkout directly through BigCommerce. The integration will go live early this year for US customers.
The localization of e-commerce fulfillment is going to become an increasingly important omni-channel retail theme. I had a very bad experience lately with a small retailer which was reliant on one of the major delivery carriers to fulfil its online orders. Said carrier managed to screw up my order so badly that I contacted the retailer to cancel it. When the retailer then declined to help, ‘arguing’ that it was too small to have any clout with the carrier and couldn’t afford to take more control of its dependency on a behemoth that simply didn’t care, then that retailer lost my business. Initiatives like those of Walmart and Amazon are inevitably still tied to behemoths themselves, but they are enabling more capabilities to be passed on to smaller and more local retailers.