Chapter 8. How On-Demand Logistics Could Save Brick-and-Mortar Retail

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I remember meeting with Borders and Barnes & Noble back in the ’90s, urging them to come to grips with the existential threat that Amazon and the rise of online bookselling posed to their business. They didn’t take that threat seriously until far too late.

On-demand delivery presents that same existential threat to retailers today.

I thought of this recently when reading about how Instacart’s business has evolved into a partnership with grocery stores.

Originally, Instacart was a pure consumer play, with on-demand shoppers going into stores on behalf of customers and on-demand delivery drivers taking the goods to their home or business. Recently, Instacart reclassified some of its shoppers as employees, partly because of controversy over W2 (employee) vs. 1099 (independent contractor) classification, but more importantly, because keeping them as independent 1099 workers precluded Instacart from training them. Now Instacart can make sure its shoppers know how to tell when an avocado is ripe without incurring the wrath of the IRS. (Training workers is one of the tests that tax authorities use to determine W2 vs. 1099 status.)

I find this nuanced approach to the W2 vs. 1099 issue to be a great lesson for companies coming to grips with these new technologies. It is clear that there are jobs ...

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