In latest Amazon jab, Walmart to expand grocery delivery to more than 100 cities

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Walmart

announced today that it will expand the service, currently available in six markets, to more than 100 cities by the end of 2018. While the exact metro areas haven't been disclosed, Walmart claims the expansion will allow its delivery service to serve 40 percent of US households.

Customers can order groceries online through Walmart's website or through the company's dedicated grocery app. Walmart's network of personal shoppers then gather the items in each order and prep them for delivery. Walmart already employs 18,000 personal shoppers and plans to hire more to support the expansion of this program. The company uses crowdsourced delivery services, such as Uber, to deliver orders to customers. Each delivery order must reach Walmart's $30 minimum, and customers pay a $9.95-per-order fee as well.

Walmart will also expand its current grocery pickup service this year to an additional 1,000 stores. Currently available at 1,200 Walmart locations, this service lets customers order groceries online and pick them up from a store without getting out of their cars.

"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," CEO and President of Walmart US Greg Foran said in a statement. "We’re serving our customers in ways that no one else can. Using our size and scale, we’re bringing the best of Walmart to customers across the country."

Size and scale are key to Walmart's ongoing tug-of-war with Amazon, especially in the grocery market. Walmart has over 11,700 stores across the US—while the grocery delivery expansion doesn't include all of those stores, it still covers much more ground than Amazon does with its current grocery offerings. Amazon Fresh operates in a handful of US cities, and a few of those locations saw Fresh end its operation in recent months. Amazon started offering Prime Now, 2-hour delivery for Whole Foods orders in four cities last month and recently added San Francisco and Atlanta. Whole Foods has about 470 stores in the US, Canada, and the UK, which gives Amazon more locations than it had before, but it's nowhere near the numbers Walmart has at its disposal.

But Amazon shines in most other areas of online shopping, especially quick and efficient shipping. Prime members get free, two-day delivery when purchasing many items off Amazon.com, and Prime Now continues to expand to allow more customers to get two-hour, and sometimes one-hour, delivery for some items. Walmart bought the Brooklyn-based startup Parcel last year to step up its same-day package delivery game in the New York metro area, but it has yet to build the infrastructure to properly compete with Amazon in this endeavor on a larger scale.

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