business news in context, analysis with attitude

Walmart yesterday made a deal with Salesforce to sell "technologies and solutions that power frictionless local pickup and delivery for shoppers" to other retailers.

According to the announcement, "Both Walmart Commerce Technologies Store Assist local fulfillment app and Walmart GoLocal local delivery solutions will be available through Salesforce AppExchange to help retailers thrive in today’s hybrid shopping world."

Here's the context:

"Customers today expect seamless in-store and online experiences with convenient fulfillment options, but creating and managing these complex in-house, omni-channel solutions can be a challenge for retailers. For over a decade, Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, has pioneered and scaled innovative omnichannel technologies. Walmart’s partnership with Salesforce will provide retailers access to the same scalable technologies that Walmart uses. These solutions will enable personalized and easy commerce experiences with real-time order visibility and reliable local pickup and delivery.

"The Walmart Commerce Technologies Store Assist app helps retailers leverage their local stores as fulfillment centers. With Store Assist, retailers can optimize in-store fulfillment by increasing picking accuracy, speed and efficiency. The app will provide a seamless handoff experience between employees and customers or third-party delivery drivers. With Walmart GoLocal, retailers of all sizes will have access to white-label, delivery-as-a-service technology to power a frictionless delivery experience for their customers."

The CNBC analysis:

"Walmart’s latest push to commercialize its tech comes as the retail environment gets tougher. Inflation has forced shoppers to spend more on necessities, driving higher sales of Walmart’s groceries. But the company is also selling fewer higher-margin items like electronics, clothes and other discretionary merchandise … With the moves, Walmart is taking a page from rival Amazon’s playbook. Over the past two years, Amazon has licensed its cashier-less checkout technology, called 'Just Walk Out,' and signed up airports, sports stadiums, arenas and a Missouri grocer to bring the technology to their stores. It’s also looked to sell its palm-scanning payment system and launched an analytics service where brands pay for data on how their products perform in Amazon’s physical stores."

KC's View:

These moves by Walmart and Amazon to license out what was designed to be proprietary technology is, I think, rightly described as a way of improving the bottom line by creating alternative revenue streams.

I guess it makes sense, though I do wonder when the definition of words like "proprietary" and "differentiated" changed.  Maybe it is just an acknowledgment that there are limits to what Walmart and Amazon can do on their own. Or, just maybe, it is a move to generate short-term dollars without too much regard for what it means in terms of long-term competition.

Just asking.  (Not that Walmart and Amazon are interested in my advice for how to run major retail businesses…)