Even a few years back, Walmart’s biggest competitor was Target, a retail war fought on soil, and inside brick and mortar establishments. Since then, Walmart has overtaken the latter on a host of measures such as sales, share price, even intellectual property, coming out on top with cleaner stores, lower prices and a refurbished online strategy. The competition, unsurprisingly, has shifted to new grounds, or should we say, skies.
Amazon, by virtue of convenience, quickly surpassed all other brick-and-mortar retailers as the most-popular shopping destination. So, it was only expected that they’d stand to be Walmart’s next ‘target’ to beat (pun intended).
The two companies, in their mission to grab consumers’ attention, loyalty and dollars, have repeatedly been treading on each other’s turfs with Walmart upping their e-commerce business and Amazon looking to open physical stores. The latest is news of aerial warfare between the two giants, with both filing patents towards future drone delivery systems, Walmart closely following Amazon’s.
In recent news, Walmart has applied for a U.S. patent for a floating warehouse that could make deliveries via drones, which would bring products from the aircraft down to consumers’ homes. Amazon was granted a similar patent back in April 2016.
The unmanned floating warehouses will either be controlled autonomously or by human pilots remotely, flying at heights between 500 feet and 1,000 feet. The warehouses will contain multiple launching bays and will deploy drones with deliveries in a certain area. After deliveries, the drones will return to these mobile warehouses for restocking.
From the get go, the idea of a floating warehouse seems like a better option than a central distribution hub due to the drones having to travel lesser distances, and being able to restock according to demand. Especially in e-commerce, where demands fluctuate vividly depending on a host of external factors, a floating warehouse could effectively reduce expenses that arise in case of by-road deliveries due to traffic and other unforeseen complications.
This isn’t the first time Wal-Mart has shadowed Amazon’s intellectual property. In October, it filed a patent application for a web-based system similar to Amazon’s Dash buttons. The retailer has in recent years increased its patent filings, many focusing on enhancing customers’ in-store as well as online experience. They have also filed a patent for in-store drones that can ferry products from the backroom to the sales floor.
These patents are exciting because of the picture they paint of the future of retail shopping and e-commerce. Even if half the patents being filed make it to feasible implementation, the future promised is looking brighter than ever for consumers.