Friday, March 29, 2013

Crowd Sourcing Logistics Comes to Wal-Mart

We have heard of crowd sourcing when it comes to many areas and specifically, mostly, in IT work.  Essentially you allow the "crowd" to do the work for you and a lot of times it is free.  Think "open-source" type work.  Everyone donates, everyone helps and everyone can become a worker for your entity.

Another big area where this is popular is in crowd source funding where just about everyone can be a mini bank and provide micro loans to entrepreneurs.  While this has been a niche area in logistics, Wal-Mart now announces they will test this for home delivery. 

Remember what I have written about which is the last mile / final mile / home delivery is the most expensive part of the logistics chain getting products from production to a consumer.  One reason why stores exist is because it allows a company to aggregate the product and you, the consumer, essentially handle the final mile to your home.

Now imagine you are checking out at Wal-mart and the following interaction occurs:

  • YOU:  I am checking out and paying for my product..just as I am about to leave the cashier turns to me
  • CASHIER:  I see you live on Smith Drive in Springfield.  I have a customer who just ordered some items and their house is only 1/2 mile from your house.  Would you mind delivering the product for me?
  • YOU:  [GULP!]  Huh?
  • CASHIER:  Yes, it is only this small bag and I will give you $10 off your purchase if you do this for me.
  • YOU: [Still thinking this is odd yet intriguing] - Really?
  • CASHIER: Yes, really (channeling Austin Powers).
  • YOU: [As odd as it seems you think what the heck] OK, sure.
Wal-Mart gives you a $10.00 discount and off you go to deliver your product, get your $10 off and the home shopper gets very low cost home delivery.

Of course, there are all sorts of security concerns and other issues (What stops you from taking the product and never delivering it) but this is such an interesting idea I think it is worth investigating and perhaps this is the beginning of a huge trend in "Crowd-Source Logistics".  

There is a company which has a very interesting model called Zipments.  This is a fascinating idea which I must apologize I had not seen before.  Zipments matches required shipments with approved and screened couriers in big cities.  This is a little different as it is probably closer to independent contractor courier services than true crowd sourcing however it does appear this model is going to be very disruptive, in some form, to the normal delivery method. 

I could actually think about this going one step further in a Wal-Mart or Target.  I could see them having your credit card number and using the chance of a penalty charge ensuring you make the delivery and also a "load board" on the wall so even non customers could come in, see deliveries needed, and taking them.  

Everyone has a smartphone so getting a signature and passing that signature back to the company is easy.  I could even see, rather than a load board, a live APP existing where you could see what is being offered at multiple stores, bidding on the delivery, and building efficient routes all within a simple APP. 

Everyone can be a final mile delivery person!  Watch out Amazon.. Something like this will work.  

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