Commentary

Primed For Battle, Walmart Offers Free Shipping For 5 Days

Walmart says it will offer free shipping on all online orders for five days starting today in an effort to steal some momentum from Amazon’s second annual Prime Day, which reportedly will offer more than 100,000 deals for members worldwide tomorrow.

“This is also part of Walmart’s broader strategy to strengthen its e-commerce business at a time when its online sales growth is slowing,” Reuters’ Nandita Bose reports. “Sales through the company’s Web site and mobile app increased 7% in the latest quarter compared with 17% a year earlier.” 

Late last month, the retailer announced a free 30-day trial of ShippingPass, its own two-day shipping program that costs $49 a year. “We believe saving money every day is better than just one, and that all customers should save, not only some,” Walmart says in a statement that Bose writes “directly takes on Amazon’s shopping event.”

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As for Amazon, it’s looking to better last year’s inauguration of the event conjured out of hot air to blow away the summer doldrums. Prime Day sales in 2015 outpaced Black Friday’s, according to the company. But the first event was not without problems and widespread carping.

“The buzz built last summer but many so-called ‘Deals of the Day’ — which were supposed to be around for 24 hours — sold out within an hour or so. Some even took to social media — using the hashtag #PrimeDayFail — to compare the day to little more than a big garage sale for Amazon,” Susan Tompor reminds us in the Detroit Free Press.

“Is Prime Day as good as the company hypes it up to be?” Diana Pearl asks rhetorically for People. “Debatable.”

Pearl points out that “the majority of discounts were either on already cheap items (think things you find in the dollar section) or on Amazon's own products, like the Kindle, Echo or Fire,” but tells us that this year Amazon promises it'll be different. 

Indeed, they say they've “dramatically increased” Prime Day inventory, especially on TVs and toys, according to CNET’s Rick Broida, who also offers tactics for consumers to make sure that they are, indeed, getting the best price.

“Before you pull the trigger on any Prime Day deal, copy the URL, paste it into CamelCamelCamel's search field and check the results. You may discover that the product has indeed been priced lower in the past, and therefore may be again.” 

He also suggests using browser plug-ins such as Honey to check if other sellers have the product for a better price.

“After 10 years, Piper Jaffray estimates Prime has 57 million to 61 million subscribers in the U.S. taking advantage of unlimited two-day shipping, food deliveries, music- and video-streaming services and cloud storage for $99 a year, writesCNET’s Ben Fox Rubin in a Q&A with Greg Greeley, VP of Amazon Prime worldwide, about tomorrow’s event.

“Prime is more than that, though,” points out Eric Griffith on PCMag.com. “For example, Amazon in April launched a special add-on for those not willing to spend the $99. Now, if you only want to access the original content available via Amazon Video, you can pay $8.99 a month. Plus, there's a month-to-month option to get Prime for $10.99.” 

“We are not done,” Greeley tells CNET’s Rubin. “That means more great content. We're super excited about how the TV series have performed, and we've been doubling down on those areas. This year we've leaned into great movies. And then faster delivery.” 

“They're almost forced to improve their offerings,” Michael Bernacchi, professor of marketing at the University of Detroit Mercy, tells Tompor. He also says that tomorrow “could become the biggest Internet sales day in history, especially since Amazon appears to have energized other retailers.”

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