They say every company is now a technology company. That modern adage of the business world has proved profitable for its followers as e-commerce has swept the globe over the past few years. But that increased order volume has contributed to the sister trend of supply chain backups, a contemporary reality that is coining a new business proverb: Every company is now a logistics company.
It’s a prediction that FreightWaves CEO Craig Fuller made over a year ago, and it’s coming true. Simply put, companies that aren’t investing in their logistics networks are falling behind — and the world’s largest retailer knows it. Walmart (NYSE: WMT) last week unveiled its new white label delivery-as-a-service GoLocal, a new offering that will allow small and medium-size businesses to leverage the company’s nationwide logistics network.
The platform effectively commercializes Walmart’s delivery operations, allowing it to offer its logistics services to businesses so that they can scale using the company’s nationwide coverage at competitive pricing. The rollout of GoLocal comes less than a month after Walmart announced that it would begin selling its e-commerce technology to small and medium-size businesses.
“We’ve worked hard to develop a reliable last-mile delivery program for our customers,” said Tom Ward, senior vice president, last mile, Walmart U.S. “Now, we’re pleased to be able to use these capabilities to serve another set of customers, local merchants. Be it delivering goods from a local bakery to auto supplies from a national retailer, we’ve designed Walmart GoLocal to be customizable for merchants of all sizes and categories so they can focus on doing what they do best.”
Guy Bloch, CEO of last-mile solution provider Bringg, sat down with Modern Shipper to talk about the impact of the new service and how all companies, not just Walmart, can become logistics companies.
Last mile is becoming the first priority
Bloch sees Walmart’s new offering as a win-win-win for companies, employees and end consumers. By opening its logistics network to the market and creating what Bloch calls “the AWS of logistics,” Walmart can build a more robust network, attract more gig workers to drive its fleet of delivery vehicles and bring customers closer to local retailers.
Walmart, like many businesses, had been investing in its last-mile capabilities even before COVID-19 hit, but not all retailers are as well positioned.
“[Amazon and Instacart and DoorDash] set the bar very high, but it’s almost not fair, because those marketplaces? They’re not brands. They’re technology companies. They’re logistic companies. And they’ve been in this business for so many years, and they perfected that,” Bloch told Modern Shipper. “So now take a brand that tries to mimic that customer experience and have customers come and buy from them, and get that service without the technology expertise and logistics — it’s almost impossible.”
Companies that switched their focus to last mile later are at a sizable disadvantage, regardless of the price or quality of their product, because they simply can’t compete with the delivery times of companies that had already made significant investments in last-mile technology. Even other major retailers are struggling to keep pace with the robustness of Walmart’s network, which boasts store locations within 10 minutes of 90% of Americans.
“Suddenly [customers] started saying, ‘Hey, I can get things in 30 minutes, an hour, two hours, the same day, the next day. I can choose when I want to receive it, how I want to receive it and where I want to receive it,’” Bloch said. “They started saying, ‘If it’s the same merchandise and probably the same competitive price, then I’m making decisions based on how well they served me in my last month.’”
Eat or be eaten
Speed is king, and a reliable last-mile delivery network has become a necessity. But with so many smaller retailers eons behind Walmart’s technology, they may have no choice but to buy into it to stay afloat.
Bloch predicts exactly that — he believes that in order to keep up, small and medium-size retailers, and maybe even some large retailers, will need to lean on delivery providers like Walmart that are selling capacity on the market like a commodity, especially amid a nationwide driver shortage and heightened demand from the winter holiday season on the horizon.
“There is a big fight among the delivery providers — and not just the crowdsource, and not just the local deliveries. Even FedEx, even the regional carriers — they all need drivers,” Bloch said. “Retailers are now buying capacity in advance. They’re literally buying the capacity to guarantee that they can fulfill and deliver that demand.”
For many companies, a lack of drivers has become their biggest concern. And without the resources or capacity to overcome a shortage, Bloch says they’ll have to leverage some of Walmart’s.
Technology: The great equalizer
For Bloch, a platform that would allow companies to digitize their entire supply chain, a “control tower” of sorts, is the next big step that will move last-mile delivery forward for small and medium-size businesses.
“Automation, optimization, orchestration — it’s a data game, it’s a data decision,” he explained. “That’s the technology play. That’s what Amazon did, that’s what DoorDash did, and that’s what Instacart did. It’s now the turn of every brand to do that, and when they do that, they’ll be able to compete.”
Bloch’s company Bringg, along with others like Onfleet and Shipwire, offers cloud-based last-mile delivery solutions that can help retailers digitize and take back control of their supply chains, and they’re being adopted more and more. According to Bloch, CEOs of traditional delivery providers, which are often backed by private equity, are complaining that they’re beginning to lose out to growth venture capital-backed last-mile startups, signaling a shift toward more digitized last-mile solutions.
Comprehensive last-mile delivery networks like Walmart’s are developing a market of their own, and with no slowdown in sight, it looks like the war among retailers for capacity is just getting started.