I’m not sure when the last time I went into a Walmart was. The experience is always a bit nightmarish for me — the crowds of people (the people!), the feverish hunt for the one gadget I’ve come in for, the stretching lines at the two checkout lanes open in the bank of forty. I’m not saying that anyone who shops at Walmart is misguided. I’m just saying that I found Amazon Prime.
And so did a lot of people, presumably. After all, how convenient is it to shop for refrigerator water filters while soaking in a hot bubble bath? Don’t answer that. It’s so convenient. So convenient, in fact, that Walmart wants to offer that level of convenience to its customers, too, and for a lower fee than Prime.
Starting this Thursday, Walmart will be offering select customers the opportunity to test out its new ShippingPass two-day shipping service for just $49/year — half of Amazon Prime’s $99/year fee. ShippingPass is nothing new for the company, of course. Right now it’s currently offered with three-day shipping.
The key word, of course, is “select.” Right now, ShippingPass is available for purchase via email invitation only. #Exclusive. No word on how many customers already subscribe to the ShippingPass system.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the ramped-up shipping will take time, but could prove to be a game-changer for the company, which has the ability to leverage its stores as fulfillment hubs in addition to the 150 distribution centers and eight e-commerce fulfillment centers it already uses. Shipping from your local Walmart? Piece of cake, as long as that cake is in stock.
“[Walmart] will build density over time and become increasingly more competitive,” former FedEx executive and transportation industry consultant Ivan Hofmann told the Wall Street Journal.
But not everyone is peaches and cream when it comes to Walmart’s success with the new strategy. As Nick Egelanian, president of retail development consultants SiteWorks International, told Retail Dive earlier this year:
“Walmart is the biggest retailer in the world, and their system is selling through bricks and mortar. And they’re efficient. We know that Walmart has the most efficient system in the world. We know that they break that product down and put it on the shelves, and they do that very efficiently also, and then they’re done. And selling on the Internet is not efficient. The whole methodology of selling on the Internet is completely foreign to what it’s like selling at a Walmart.”
The question now is whether Walmart will stick with the e-commerce push if (and when) they don’t see their efforts paying off immediately. It’s something they’ve had trouble with in the past. But come on, Walmart. Give us two-day shipping. After all, we need our water filters, and our bubble bath soap for that matter, to be competitively priced.