Same-day delivery 101: Amazon, Walmart, and the rest

More and more, retailers are offering same-day delivery of online purchases. Amazon is the one to beat, but Walmart, eBay, and even Google are getting in the game. 

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    A shopper loads bags into a car in the parking lot of the Walmart in Lithonia, Ga. last November. Unlike solely online retailers Walmart has the advantage of using its stores as warehouses to facilitate its same-day delivery.
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Ever purchased something online from the comfort of your home, only to wish your retail therapy had provided you with more instant item-in-hand gratification? We have good news: you won't have to wistfully twiddle your thumbs for days anymore, as major retailers are feeling the push to dole out various iterations of same-day delivery.

Instant access to online orders has become a battle ground for retailers, as it affords them a means of beating out the competition. And this translates into comfy at-home pajama-clad shopping, while you marvel at the speed at which your purchases are delivered to your door.

While Amazon Prime users have enjoyed 2-day shipping since 2005, same day delivery on a grand scale has proved to be far less cost-effective. In 2009, the online giant launched same-day delivery (what they call "local express delivery") in 10 cities including New York, Boston, and D.C., but never expanded further. Now, rumor has it that Amazon is gearing up for a broader launch as it opens warehouses across the country.

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However, this time around Walmart, eBay, and several others (including non-retailers) are not far behind. By utilizing third party carriers, local stores, and warehouses, or partnering with brick and mortar shops to house lockers, these major players are looking to up the ante for customers who are no longer satisfied with standard mail. Here's how you can expect to see your delivery options change in the coming year. (And if you're lucky enough to live in San Francisco, you might already have access to several of these methods already.)

Amazon Wants to Shave a Day Off Delivery

Speculation abounds with regards to Amazon's next move, but one thing is clear: the online retailer remains the competitor to beat. With service in 10 cities already in place, and more warehouses to open across the nation, and with talks of delivery lockers at partner stores such as Staples and 7-Eleven, Amazon company execs told the New York Times they'd be able to cut as much as a day off of 2-day shipping times. You do the math.

eBay Taps Chains for Delivery in 2 Coastal Cities

eBay launched eBay Now last August in San Francisco, and expanded the service to New York City in November. The pilot project involves partnering with Macy's, Target, Office Depot, and Best Buy to deliver their goods the same day that they're purchased. Customers use an app to order an item on their phone or computer, and an eBay valet hand delivers it before the end of the day for $5. The project is meant to expand to other cities further down the line.

Walmart Uses Its Stores as Warehouses

Perhaps the most buzzed about new same-day delivery provider, Walmart is setting out to give Amazon a run for its money. The massive chain is shrewdly deciding to use several of its 4,000+ brick-and-mortar locations to test run same-day delivery in Virginia, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, San Jose, and San Francisco. Walmart will use UPS to deliver select popular goods for a flat rate of $10 if customers place their order before noon. The use of its local stores, as opposed to warehouses, provides the company with an advantage that other retailers don't have – a dense, widespread, and well-established reach across the nation. But Walmart won't expand the service to all stores just yet; it's still seeing how consumers react to the option during the test phase.

Google Mysteriously Buys Up a Delivery Service

Google continues to be vague about its latest operations, but the company recently acquired BufferBox, a service that delivers e-commerce goods to kiosks. The intention, according to an emailed statement to Bloomberg, is to help consumers save time and money. It also ensures that customers get their packages at safe locations no matter if they are home at the right time of day. While this differs from same-day delivery to the home, it competes with the likes of Amazon's locker system as a method of obtaining packages delivered close by.

The USPS Finds New Revenue with Metro Post

The United States Post Office is also testing out a fledgling same-day delivery service in San Francisco. Called Metro Post, it partners with 10 retail chains, including 1-800-Flowers, that have both online and physical storefronts in northern California in order to facilitate easy same-day shipping. Consumers would be able to place an order with a retailer until 2 or 3 pm, and receive their purchases between 4 and 8 pm that day. According to postal regulatory filings, the Metro Post is projected to generate between $10 million and $50 million in new revenue from deliveries just in San Francisco itself in the coming year. If all goes well, the service could be expanded to 10 other cities.

Shutl and the Rise of Third Party Start-Up Carriers

Several third party start-up carriers are attempting to ride the same-day delivery wave as well. Shutl, a London-based firm, aims to deliver online goods within the hour of purchase. The service is set to launch in New York and San Francisco, and products will be delivered once bought online from retailers that have brick-and-mortar stores within 10 miles of the person's home. Foot, bike, and car carriers from existing courier services will deliver the goods. Other companies like Postmates started offering similar deliveries at $6.99 for over 20,000 products from more than 3,300 stores in San Francisco last year. But with failures from other start-ups like Kozmo, retailers aren't quite sure if the trend will bring in the sales they would like.

Do We Need Instant Retail Gratification While Shopping Online?

Same-day delivery with online shopping still has a ways to go before it's a reliable household expectation, but the trend is popping up now with a vengeance. The verdict is still out on whether or not Amazon can get ahead of the pack, or if brick-and-mortar stores like Walmart will prove the most savvy of them all.

Readers, what do you think of the increased focus on near-instant delivery? Do you think it's a necessary option to have? Are there any San Francisco residents out there that have tried these beta services? Sound off in the comments below.

Summar Ghias is a contributor to dealnews.coma website devoted to finding the best deals on consumer goods. The site pledges to list the best deal, whether or not it's from an advertiser, although it does work with advertisers to craft deals for readers. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click hereThis feature first appeared in dealnews.com. 

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