The battle of the shopping and shipping giants is on. A strong U.S. job market and rising buyer confidence has two of the world’s largest retailers—Amazon and Walmart—fighting for consumer cash. And when the dust settles, consumers may end up the winners.
By itself, business isn’t sinful. Neither is profit. The woman of Proverbs 31 proves that. Companies that buy, import, and sell merchandise aren’t necessarily doing wrong by charging for goods. (Sometimes perhaps they could do a better job at heeding the giving-to-the-poor-and-needy part of the passage.)
By dollar amount, Amazon is the world’s largest internet retailer. Amazon started as an online bookstore. The company quickly added software, electronics, food, jewelry, toys, and clothes. In 2017, Amazon bought grocery chain Whole Foods. The retail giant wanted to compete with Walmart’s grocery business.
Today, Amazon sells 480 million items, from diapers to lawnmowers. Plus, Amazon offers air freight delivery service and cashier-less physical stores. These practices are pushing other retailers to make changes—like speeding up checkout lines and re-thinking delivery.
Walmart U.S. CEO Greg Foran admits Walmart faces stiff competition from Amazon and other chains. But he’s “feeling confident” about Walmart’s growth potential.
That confidence comes, in part, from Walmart’s new focus. It’s emphasizing fashion and home furnishings (like Target?) including new brands and new items.
Walmart is also creating a tech-filled in-store shopping experience. For example, “pickup towers” are appearing in hundreds of stores. The 16-foot orange machines spit out online orders to customers like giant vending machines. The towers are part of the company’s plan to make its 5,300 stores into supply hubs—reducing shipping costs and speeding up deliveries.
Smartphone apps help Walmart shoppers find what they need quickly. The apps offer store maps and price checks. Employee apps help manage inventory, pricing, returns, and more. All that time-saving should free employees to assist customers or—here’s the best part—even check them out throughout the store.
Amazon still hasn’t delivered on “Drone Delivery” (https://teen.wng.org/node/390). But it has long offered two-day shipping on many products. In some areas, the company can provide one- and two-hour delivery. To compete, Walmart rolled out grocery pickup and delivery. Pickup customers arrive at their local Walmart where groceries are brought to them. With delivery, shoppers can order online and get fresh (“or your money back”) groceries delivered right to their doorsteps, skipping the trip completely.
As retailers compete to satisfy consumers’ changing tastes, the result is usually better, cheaper goods and services. Hooray for competition!