Later this month, Walmart will begin a national rollout of its new "Pick Up Today" service, which allows customers to order items online and pick them up about four hours later for no additional fees. Walmart intends to expand Pick Up Today's inventory to include up to 40,000 items in various categories from home décor to video games, all of which will be available for same-day pickup in 3,600 stores by June.
The goal is to combine Walmart's large bricks-and-mortar footprint with the consumer demand for free shipping, which it hopes will top competitors like Amazon, which does not have the advantage of retail store locations, and Best Buy, which doesn't offer the same wide array of products. Steve Nave, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Walmart.com, says, "Walmart is uniquely positioned to combine the power of eCommerce with our national retail footprint to offer a leading, multichannel experience that delivers the best savings and convenience to our customers." And he adds, "According to the March 2010 Consumer Intentions & Actions Survey from BIGresearch, 63% of Walmart shoppers said that free shipping is very important to them."
In contrast, Amazon.com already offers free shipping and an additional 15% discount on bulk grocery items through its Subscribe and Save program, and the items are delivered right to the customer's door. Even if customers are looking for items not eligible for Subscribe and Save, other departments within the site offer free shipping with minimum purchase. Amazon is also experimenting with its AmazonTote program, which will do same-day delivery in certain markets.
Other stores also compete. Best Buy even has a shorter turnaround time than four hours, with most items available for pickup in as little as 45 minutes after the online purchase, and select stores offer a reserved front-row parking spot for customers picking up orders. Sears customers can make their store pick ups even more convenient by using an in-store kiosk or curbside pick up, and if the item isn't ready within five minutes after the customer presents a confirmation number, Sears will give away a $5 coupon.
So how will Walmart stand out? For city dwellers who may not live anywhere near a Walmart store, the Pick Up Today service gives the option of picking up orders at a nearby FedEx location. Walmart also appeals to the mobile crowd with its iPhone app that allows customers to renew Walmart Pharmacy prescriptions or order photo prints for pick up through their mobile web browser.
Pick Up Today is not the same as Walmart's Site to Store program, which has been in operation for five years. Site to Store offers free shipping only on eligible items that are available to be picked up at the store in 4 to 7 days, as opposed to Pick Up Today's same-day delivery and larger inventory.
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