The shipping wars rage on across retail, where expedited shipping is rapidly becoming the norm. Target announced today that it, too, will be joining the fray, offering same-day delivery on around 65,000 items with a service called “Shipt.” Yay?
Many of the early skirmishes in the fight to send junk to people faster were won by Amazon, which secured Sunday deliveries from the U.S. Postal Service in 2013 and has been expanding its two-day and same-day markets for Prime members steadily over the years, with Prime memberships now running $119 annually. Rival Walmart began offering free one-day shipping for over 200,000 items last month on orders over $35, and expects the perk to available to the majority of U.S. markets by year’s end. The big box chain also announced it would offer a service where workers would stock the fridges of customers while they weren’t home. Convenience uber alles, y’all.
So does Target stand a chance trying to compete with Amazon and Walmart while offering considerably fewer same-day items? Well, no. A strong indication of how badly outclassed Target is can be seen in how it plans to make same-day delivery happen at all: by pivoting a delivery startup it bought in 2017 called Shipt to get these orders fulfilled.
Shipt (not to be confused with failed delivery startup Shyp, or Postmates, or Doordash, or the countless other delivery startups that are basically identical in concept) was originally a sort of Google Express. The platform dispatched contractors who acted as personal shoppers to participating stores—which at one point even included the now Amazon-owned Whole Foods—and then they’d bring that stuff to you, for a very Prime-like monthly or annual fee. Now Shipt is rolled into Target’s website, and its delivery people are standing by to bring you plenty of, well, shit. You can now get same-day delivery from Target without paying for a $99-a-year Shipt membership, but each order will cost a flat $10 extra, something that’s likely to rankle consumers who are getting used to getting similar services gratis.
Repositioning Shipt is smart optics, at least, making Target look like a contender and getting some extra milage out of a service that arguably didn’t quite catch fire the way its parent company had hoped. Expect this Shipt to quietly sink six months to a year from now.