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Welcome to Walmart, would you deliver a package for us?

A Walmart truck sits on the side of the highway.

So, you’re at Walmart, getting ready to pay. The cashier says, 'Wait! You can get a few bucks off if you deliver some stuff your neighbor ordered.'

Walmart is definitely thinking outside the big box on this one. Ken Perkins, president of Retail Metrics, says Walmart may be thinking customer couriers would be faster than Amazon, which Walmart sees as enemy number one -- for good reason.   

“The whole retail industry is shifting toward mobile and online purchases and probably felt like they’ve gotten a late start to it,” Perkins says.

So they have to get creative. Walmart and other big-box stores have also experimented with matching Amazon’s prices. Other retailers are offering free apps that tell them when you’re in their store. They can track your progress through the aisles and text you with special offers.

“Let’s say you’re in a grocery store and you’re in the ice cream aisle," explains Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst at the NPD Group. "They can tell you that Haagen-Dazs ice cream is on sale today.”

Other retailers are closing brick-and-mortar stores and customizing the ones they keep. Alden Lury, a retail strategist at Kurt Salmon, says for example, a Target in a city might not stock bargain sizes.

“You might not find the 12-pack of Bounty," he says. "You might find the six pack of Bounty. It might be hard to get on the subway with a 12-pack of Bounty.”

Lury says if retailers can get to know their customers that well, and tailor themselves to what savvy shoppers want, they might just have a chance against Amazon.  

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.
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Getting offers while I shop might make me look at new items...the first two or three times it happened. Or it might make me silence or turn off my phone.

Customers as couriers?! Who's going to be liable if the driver gets into an accident while carrying merchandise for another WM customer? Who's going to be liable if the driver damages the other customer's merchandise? Who's going to be liable if the driver leaves a package for a customer, and then that package gets stolen or damaged by weather? If WM wants the driver to assume all the risk, can you imagine trying to get someone to sign liability waivers at the checkout?

As for getting ad/coupon notifications while I'm grocery shopping, the absolute last thing I want is interruptions while I'm trying to scan the shelves looking for items on my grocery list, especially if it's for junk food I shouldn't be eating in the first place. This can only serve to increase impulse purchases, which is good for the store but bad for your budget.

Safeway actually has the right idea for personalization: digital coupons that you can associate with your account before you go to the store, and which get applied at the register when you swipe your membership card/enter your phone number.

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