Walmart Expands Same-Day Delivery, Looks to Match Amazon

Xconomy National — 

At the National Retail Federation’s annual conference in January, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon called the Arkansas-based, big-box retailer a technology company.

On Wednesday, Walmart (NYSE: WMTmoved to make that assertion more of a reality: upping the number of cities where it provides same-day delivery to 100 cities from six—serving about 40 percent of American households by end of the year.

“We’re saving customers time by leveraging new technology, and connecting all the parts of our business into a single seamless shopping experience: great stores, easy pickup, fast delivery, and apps and websites that are simple to use,” Greg Foran, president and CEO, Walmart U.S., said in a press release Wednesday announcing the delivery service.

The move comes as Walmart continues to embrace e-commerce as a way to compete with Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN). The Seattle-based giant has become a formidable rival for traditional grocery operations since its purchase last year of Austin, TX-based Whole Foods Marketplace for $13.7 billion. Last month, Amazon started free two-hour delivery of Whole Foods products, which was quickly followed by Target saying it would also provide same-day delivery—through Shipt, a Birmingham, AL, startup it bought in December.

Just over a week later, Walmart announced membership changes to its bulk retailer Sam’s Club, which also included free shipping on many items.

Now, Walmart has expanded its delivery service—which costs $9.95 per order and requires a minimum order of $30—and includes fresh goods like produce and meat as well as pantry staples like paper towels. Walmart will partner with Uber to make the deliveries, expanding a test started in 2016, and add other partners later this year, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. The Amazon/Whole Foods delivery is available to Prime members—which costs $99 annually—in six cities currently. Two-hour delivery service is free and so-called “ultra-fast delivery” within one hour costs $7.99 on orders of $35 or more.

Walmart said it employs more than 18,000 personal shoppers, and plans to add “thousands” more this year. “These associates must complete a three-week training program learning how to select the freshest produce and the best cuts of meat for online grocery customers,” the company said in the press release.