business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Washington Business Journal reports that Amazon “will offer free one-day shipping to Prime members for roughly 10 million products,” expediting the pace at which it is converting a Prime benefit from two-day shipping to one-day.

The story says that Amazon, in promising the improvement in Prime benefits, said that it would take a "significant amount of time to achieve.” But then, last month Walmart “announced it would offer free next-day delivery for about 200,000 products. The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer, Amazon's chief competitor, also took a swipe at Amazon on Twitter for requiring $119 annual Prime membership to get free one-day shipping.”

In a statement, Amazon said that “Prime Free One Day is possible because we’ve been building our network for over 20 years, enabling us to create a world-class customer experience powered by incredible employees and great technology. We’ve strategically grown our network in the U.S. to include 110 fulfillment centers, 40 package sortation centers, 100 delivery stations, and 20 air gateways all to be closer to our customers.”

The Wall Street Journal writes that “the two rivals have been one-upping each other with announcements of faster shipping options as they seek to cater to ever-demanding online shoppers.”
KC's View:
While I can appreciate Walmart’s desire to diminish Amazon’s offer by pointing out that it is only available to Prime members, my instinct tells me that the Amazon approach is the better one in that membership reinforces the idea that it should be the first place to check for everything, and often will be the best place for most things. Walmart is a place to buy stuff, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that approach … I just think that Amazon is playing a bigger game.

One other point. The rivalry between Walmart and Amazon raises consumer expectations in a way that will have implications for everybody who competes with them. Attention must be paid … and if you can’t compete with what they’re doing (and most can’t), you’d better have a compelling and differentiating alternative (preferably one with which they can’t compete).