The pandemic may have become yesterday’s crisis, and parking lots may be thrumming with shoppers, but brands and merchants have been placing their bets this summer on our front porches. Rapid, last-mile delivery services are proliferating as retailers — big and not so big — try to compete with Amazon, which had a 17-year head start with the launch in 2005 of its Prime two-day service.
Reading the flurry of recent announcements, one must wonder when the billions being invested in last-mile infrastructure will pay off. The field is getting crowded and the technology complex. How much convenience is too much to sustain? How much speed do shoppers demand, and will they pay for it? Will the skies one day be buzzing with delivery drones, or will the technology prove to be a public hazard?
The news begins with Walmart, which recently placed an order with a startup American manufacturer — Canoo — for 4,500 electric delivery vans, with an option to buy 10,000 more. That’s a far cry from the 100,000 electric vans that Amazon ordered from another start-up manufacturer, Rivian.