Walmart Pushes Ahead

Frozen and Refrigerated Buyer – Unwilling to cede its leadership position to Amazon or anyone else, the world’s largest retailer pursues an aggressive omni-channel strategy heavy on e-commerce. After watching retail institutions like Sears, Radio Shack and Payless fall victim to the e-commerce leader, something stirred in the Bentonville, Ark.-based chain.

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In fact, Walmart’s biggest advantage over Amazon its brick-and-mortar stores, located within 10 miles of 90% of the U.S. population. That means consumers who don’t want to wait two days for an item ordered online to ship can drive to a nearby store and pick it themselves the same day if it’s in stock. Or in a couple of days, if they want to save a few bucks if they want to save a few bucks on home delivery. And while they’re there, they might gas up the car or grab something for dinner as well, things they can’t do on Amazon.

Whether for ship-to-home or in-store pickup, “Walmart has a huge opportunity to use its stores as distribution centers as well as theaters for shopping,” says Ken Morris, principal at Boston-based Boston Retail Partners. Yes, Amazon is likely to do the same with Whole Foods, but Walmart’s got a huge head start.

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In addition, “For many consumers, using their phones for a multitude of tasks is second-nature, so it just makes sense to allow them to check out and pay through their phones as well,” says Morris. But Walmart’s Scan & Go app takes the technology several steps further, he continues, allowing shoppers to fill prescriptions, maintain shopping and wish lists and run Savings Catcher, a function that searches for better deals on each item for up to week after purchase and then credits any difference to the user’s account. “This is a great way to build brand loyalty,” he says. “If promoted properly, Savings Catcher can become a very big deal.

Yes, keeping fixed costs low helps ensure the low prices that shoppers love. But that’s no longer enough. “Shoppers have zero tolerance for a less-than-optimal in-store experience, especially when Amazon and other omni-channel retailers are only a click away,” notes Morris.

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