Walmart takes battle with Amazon to the skies

Like Amazon before it, Walmart has filed for a patent for a blimp-style flying warehouse that would make deliveries via drone. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Mike Mozart)

The battle for the quickest delivery is on. Arkansas-based retailing giant Walmart has official filed to patent a blimp-style warehouse, Fortune reports. While Walmart may seem forward in its thinking, it is actually following Amazon, which filed and was granted a similar patent in 2016, the New York Post reports.

Bloomberg was one of the first sites to report on Walmart’s patent application only last week, but the patent application occurred as early as February.

The concept relies on artificial intelligence technology where items ordered online are stored in an unmanned aircraft and ultimately delivered with the help of drones. One concept of “airborne fulfillment centers” has it hovering above massive gatherings of people, such as football games. In this scenario, drones could deliver not only snack items to people, but various other items purchased online.

In the report by Fortune, the estimated flight height for the proposed blimp-style machine by Walmart is believed to be between 500 and 1,000 feet. This was a far cry from the estimated height of Amazon’s flying warehouse, which could go as high as 45,000 feet.

The calculated move by Walmart is seen as a pro-active strategy in response to Amazon’s push for physical storefronts acquired in the pending deal with Whole Foods Market Inc.

A warehouse remotely operated with less manpower and more drones would mean lower costs in terms of shipping and handling and faster deliveries. Typical concerns when it comes to delivering orders is balancing speed and accuracy with cost-efficiency.

Technology changing market habits

The competition between Walmart and Amazon is partially a result of the changing spending habits of millennials. According to a research paper released by LEK Consulting, millennials’ purchasing habits are based more on “the most convenient solution, even if it costs a bit more.” It has become an expectation for them to spend a little more when quicker delivery is expected of items purchased online.

LEK Consulting further explained this shift in consumer behavior as “the twin pressures of instant information and rapidly evolving digital technology.”

The not-so-subtle hints in acquisitions

Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods’ outlets is seen as a corrective measure for Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to find a remedy to its Amazon Go. The e-commerce company’s efforts at diversifying into grocery items has been met with glitches and complaints. Walmart is known for its groceries and has been building an online outlet, hoping to do so before Amazon can gain a foothold in the market.

Grocery shopping had never been this exciting. The next thing to watch out is which retailing titan will beat the other in terms of shipping and handling services in terms of delivery speed and quality service.

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