Five Delivery and Fulfillment Priorities for Retailers in 2024

By Rina Hurst, Vice President, Walmart GoLocal

March 14, 2024  |  3 Min. Read  |  Insights

The one constant in retail is change, and retailers have had no shortage of it in recent years. Retailers are facing increased and changing customer expectations, the rapid growth of e-commerce, and emerging technologies like AI. And they’re thinking about how these factors influence how they serve their customers end-to-end. Each day, I have the privilege of speaking with leading retailers about what is top of mind – especially with delivery and fulfillment. There are a few common themes to these discussions – from how they can better leverage their store footprint to fulfill customer orders to how to best partner with delivery service providers (DSPs) to optimize and scale their operations.

Stores as Fulfillment Hubs:

Walmart often talks about its stores as a competitive advantage with more than half of our online orders being fulfilled from local stores. More and more, our retail clients are focused on how they can fulfill orders from local stores, creating a true omnichannel experience for the consumer. By incorporating same-day delivery and ship-from-store into their operations, retailers can optimize inventory, improve cost efficiency, and improve delivery speed, which ultimately lead to a better customer experience. This means retailers are not just thinking about the delivery experience, but also how to optimize in-store operations like picking and staging orders for delivery.

Meeting Customer Expectations:

While same-day delivery was initially seen as a luxury service, it’s now considered table stakes and many customers see the value of same-day delivery, even for lower-cost items. Retailers are also being strategic about the customer delivery promise based on their business and customer expectations. Speed is important, but it’s even more important to get customers what they need when they need it. For fresh items, faster delivery speeds may be needed. For general merchandise, retailers may have more flexibility in offering same- and next-day delivery while still satisfying customer expectations. We’re also seeing retailers prioritize the number of SKUs available for same-day delivery – beyond offering the service, it’s important for retailers to offer delivery for all of the products customers want delivered same-day. Same-day delivery can drive real results for your business—one of our clients saw a significant increase in incremental shoppers after introducing same-day delivery.

Connected Fulfillment Capabilities:

Although acing the last-mile is essential, the flexibility, speed, and cost savings from partnering with a DSP go beyond the last-mile and can be a key dependency in creating more connected end-to-end fulfillment capabilities. Retailers are looking at all aspects of their supply chain to transport goods as seamlessly as possible, from their distribution centers to stores to a customer’s doorstep. DSPs are being utilized across the supply chain to allow retailers to remain nimble and provide the best customer experience.  DSPs can be used to optimize fulfillment networks however our partners define it, whether it is delivering bouquets from a distribution center or balancing inventory across storefronts.  

Maximizing DSP Partnerships:

Retailers are looking for DSPs that can offer a wide variety of services and products. It’s important to retailers to work with a DSP that can consult on the full delivery journey – from when a customer places an order to when it is delivered to their doorstep. A key piece of this is technology. Retailers look for partners who can quickly and seamlessly integrate into their tech stack to service packages of all sizes with a single integration and support team. This means consolidated performance management, invoicing, and client support from Day 1, without having to manage several partners and vendors. Many retailers use multiple providers and orchestration platforms, and it’s important to have a partner who can integrate quickly and efficiently.

Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technologies:

Artificial intelligence, automation and emerging technologies like drones are top of mind for retailers and can be helpful tools to serve customers with greater speed and accuracy. Retailers are using AI and predictive analytics in areas like inventory planning and management, routing, and batching to better place inventory throughout our network and optimize delivery routes. Automation is another powerful tool. By automating certain technologies throughout the supply chain, retailers can increase capacity and speed while improving the associate experience. Retailers are also looking at using drones upstream in their supply chain and for customer deliveries. Walmart is at the forefront of drone delivery, with the largest drone delivery footprint of any retailer. Walmart is using drones to deliver items to customers as fast as 15 minutes.  

These are just a few things top of mind for retailers in 2025 related to last-mile delivery and fulfillment. I’m grateful to help retailers navigate these challenges and rise to meet them. Our team is looking forward to what’s ahead this year and to working alongside our clients to accelerate their business and deliver for their customers.