This year, more than ever before, the retailer that wins the online sales war will likely have the edge going into next year. While most retailers take it for granted that Amazon will, once again, run away with the title, at least one big retailer is making a run at the online giant.
Heading into the final quarter, Walmart is surging. Online business and strong food sales are being credited with pushing Walmart past its toe-to-toe big-box rival Target. Meanwhile, Best Buy, the electronics giant that depends on a strong Q4 to make it back into the black, didn’t quite meet expectations in Q3 this year. That’s not to say they won’t, only that they will be starting from behind.
Best Buy, at least, is saying it’s not worried, blaming the two big hurricanes for its rough third quarter of 2017 while taking a glancing swipe at Apple for delaying the release of the iPhone X as another reason for sluggish sales.
The mixed bag of results has energized the market watchers who are saying Amazon is busy putting nails into the brick-and-mortar business model. Walmart isn’t having any of it. The company is not only predicting an outstanding fourth quarter, it is ramping up its options for online shoppers, including in-store pickup and delivery to store options for hard to find holiday gift items.
They will need to do much more if the company wants to catch Amazon. Analysts are already predicting that Amazon will garner about half of all the growth of online sales this season. Half. On its own. Everyone else will split the rest of the growth. Walmart understands this, and the brick-and-mortar company with the deepest pockets is poised to make a big push for as much of that market growth as possible.
The selling points for online shoppers remain what they have been for years: price, accessibility, selection and user experience. Walmart does well in most of these metrics, but it still can’t quite match up to Amazon. What the company can do is beat its fellow brick-and-mortar retailers in each of these categories.
To do that, Walmart will need to leverage its massive customer base and make it more convenient and easier for them to shop online, while not neglecting in-store visits. That’s a concern Amazon clearly doesn’t need to worry about, but one that other B&M stores will be fighting this year as well.
In that race, at least, Walmart has a bit of an edge over its direct competition, an edge it needs to extend while it has its sights set on Amazon.
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States