It blows my mind that retail has come to Amazon vs Walmart.
It seems so, and Amazon has taken notice.
It seemed to start with Walmart’s purchase of Jet.com … that was the first time people started paying attention to the fact that Walmart was eyeing Amazon as the one to beat. And back then, to many, it seemed like a futile attempt on Walmart’s part.
At that point, Walmart’s “ship to store” and “buy online, pick up in store” were painful to be nice. Ship to store would take up to 7 days, even at a time where Kohl’s was stepping in with two to four hour pick up windows. What was even more jarring was when you’d order something online to pick up in store, be told to wait 7 days, but visit the store in the meantime and see that item on the shelf, ready to go. Made no sense.
They also toyed with the idea of hiring customers to deliver online purchases and, more recently, having employees deliver orders on their way home from work. Many saw these as feeble attempts to try to be like Amazon, even if just a little.
But then the retailer got serious.
It seems that the purchase of Jet.com started something big between the two retailers. Amazon started to take notice, and Walmart steadied itself and became more significant.
Outside of buying Jet.com, what else has Walmart done?
- Made significant improvements to its Ship to Store and Buy online, pickup in store features.
- Implemented a two day delivery program (dubbed ShippingPass) at a reduced rate of $49.99 a year compared to Amazon’s Prime at $99.00 a year.
- Walmart quickly ditched this program, refunded ShippingPass members who paid the membership fee, and lowered the minimum purchase to qualify for free shipping to $35 to be more in line with Amazon.
Earlier this month, Amazon took a big swipe at Walmart and the grocery industry by announcing the purchase of Whole Foods. Unfortunately, this major announcement trumped Walmart’s announcement, which came only hours later, that the purchased Bonobos, a men’s online retailer, in an attempt to continue to expand their online presence.
It’s been fascinating to watch these two retailers to see what happens next.
But why is Amazon seemingly most worried about Walmart, more so than other retail giants such as Target? It’s simple:
Wal-Mart has stores within 10 miles of 90% of the U.S. population.
Walmart doesn’t need to worry about drone delivery, or addign distribution centers; they are already in place via their retail stores. By increasing their footprint online, they’re positioning the company to be a main competitor to Amazon.
While it’s interesting to watch how this develops over time, it’s sobering to remember that these two companies are responsible for the changing landscape of retail. Right now it seems like it’s hurting the industry overall, with some long standing retailers hurting to the point of potentially going out of business. However, change is not always negative, and while this appears to be a rough spot across the industry, the changes may be for the positive in the long run. Only time will tell.