What if you could have items delivered by drones? That’s the latest battleground between Amazon and Walmart as both retail giants take to the skies to establish dominance in the delivery game, each with their own unique approach.
Amazon’s most recent venture into drone delivery unfolds in the state of Texas. As PYMNTS reported, Amazon Pharmacy is offering customers in College Station, Texas the option of drone-drop delivery services. In a Wednesday (Oct. 18) announcement, the retail giant said customers there can have prescription medications at their doorstep within 60 minutes of placing an order.
“We’re taught from the first days of medical school that there is a golden window that matters in clinical medicine,” said Dr. Vin Gupta, chief medical officer of Amazon Pharmacy. “That’s the time between when a patient feels unwell and when they’re able to get treatment. We’re working hard at Amazon to dramatically narrow the golden window from diagnosis to treatment, and drone delivery marks a significant step forward. Whether it’s an infectious disease or respiratory illness, early intervention can be critical to improving patient outcomes.”
Amazon is also planning to expand its Prime Air drone delivery service to Italy, the U.K. and another location in the U.S.
“We are working closely with national regulators and international regulators, and communities in the EU, Italy, the UK, and the U.S., to develop this program. We have committed the necessary time and resources to build a safe and scalable service. We have refined the technology, and are now building the right infrastructure to ensure the service provides the ultimate convenience for our customers,” Amazon said in a blog post on Thursday (Oct 19).
These developments come on the heels of Amazon Pharmacy’s introduction of automatic, manufacturer-sponsored coupons aimed at alleviating the financial burden for patients purchasing insulin and other diabetes-care products.
“Customers can save time and money on the most commonly prescribed products … like insulin vials, pens, continuous glucose monitors and pumps,” the company said in a post. “With automatically-applied, manufacturer-sponsored coupons, many insulin brands are available to eligible customers starting at $35 a month.”
Walmart, for its part, is expanding the drone delivery service it began two years ago.
Back in August, PYMNTS reported that Walmart had joined forces with the Alphabet-owned on-demand drone delivery provider, Wing, to amplify convenience and foster innovation in last-mile delivery solutions, with a focus on serving customers in the Dallas, Texas metro area.
At the time, the report indicated that the new service was set to be introduced in the following months, further enhancing Walmart’s drone delivery capabilities, which the company had been building up over the previous two years.
The retail giant had already taken flight with drone delivery operations across seven states and 36 stores, successfully fulfilling over 10,000 deliveries. Through its collaboration with Wing, Walmart is poised to expand its coverage to an additional 60,000 residences. This is being made possible by Wing’s drones, which have the capability to operate beyond the line of sight, offering on-demand delivery services to customers residing within a 6-mile radius of participating Walmart outlets.
“Working with Wing directly aligns with our passion for finding innovative and eco-friendly last-mile delivery solutions to get customers the items they want, when they want them,” Prathibha Rajashekhar, senior vice president of innovation and automation at Walmart U.S., said at the time of the announcement.
Walmart’s expanding network of 11 drone hubs in the Dallas area will be joined by two new stores, which will introduce the drone delivery service powered by Wing. The service will provide customers with the convenience of ordering a wide range of products, from frozen treats and household essentials to last-minute meal solutions and even delicate items.
Before reaching its 10,000 deliveries milestone this year, Walmart earlier achieved 6,000 drone deliveries from 36 U.S. stores across seven states, as reported by PYMNTS. It was also disclosed during the announcement that Walmart imposed a 10-pound weight limit.
The retailer’s partner, DroneUp, which supplies the drones, said in a May 2022 blog post it saw a positive response from Walmart customers who used the service. And while Walmart initially thought customers would use the service for emergency items, it was found that they used it for its sheer convenience, akin to a quick solution for a weeknight meal. The top-selling item at one of Walmart’s current hubs was reported to be Hamburger Helper.