Amazon and Walmart Take Different Paths to Same Small Businesses 

Whether it’s Amazon’s Buy With Prime or Walmart Go Local, big retail is thinking small. As in, thinking about ways to get more small and medium-sized brands to do business with — and through — their respective platforms via a coincidentally launched pair of new initiatives.

On the one hand, Amazon said this week that it would soon offer the full streamlined suite of its Prime ordering, payment and fulfillment services to startups and brands that could never afford to provide them on their own. In announcing the expansion, Amazon said its turnkey service would no longer be an invitation-only product but rather one that will be available to merchants across the U.S. later this month.  

In short, Amazon’s famed fast, one-click ordering, free shipping, and easy returns are about to scale even further.

“Buy with Prime lets millions of U.S.-based Prime members shop directly from merchants’ online stores with the trusted experience they expect from Amazon,” Peter Larsen, Amazon’s vice president, Buy with Prime said in a blog this week.

If placing your product in front of Amazon’s 200+ million existing Prime members who will see the familiar Prime logo and get the same free delivery and easy returns they are accustomed to was not enough of an enticement to would-be retailers, the Seattle-based eCommerce leader backed it up with a bit of data.

“Buy with Prime has been shown to increase shopper conversion by 25% on average, according to internal Amazon data,” the blog said in a direct pitch to would-be third-party sellers. “This data point measures the average increase in shoppers who placed an order when Buy with Prime was an available purchase option versus when it was not, during the same time period.”

On the very same day, BigCommerce announced that it was bringing the Buy With Prime feature to its legion of retailers, calling it a better way to reach new “high-intent” shoppers.

“This integration is the first of its kind and is a game changer for Omnichannel merchant and partner growth,” Sharon Gee, vice president of revenue growth and general manager of omnichannel at BigCommerce said of the new feature.

As it is, roughly 60% of Amazon’s sales already come from third-party sellers using its platform, a number that should increase as more brands — such as Rent the Runway this week — set up a digital shop within the eCommerce giant’s massive marketplace.

But Wait, There’s Walmart 

Never to be outdone, the king of the big box stores took another step forward this week in its own digital transformation via a separate but similar outreach to sellers and retailers in need of a helping hand.

In a display of its expanded digital muscle and prowess, Walmart announced that its Commerce Technologies and GoLocal units were teaming up with Salesforce to offer curbside pickup, local delivery and order fulfillment services to the retailers who use its cloud-based software.

While it is often said that certain new initiatives will “level the playing field” between large and small businesses, in the case of Walmart’s new outreach to sellers, the Arkansas-based chain is — just like Amazon — serving up the exact same “Store Assist” technology that has been used to fulfill over 830 million orders in Walmart’s 4,700 domestic stores.

“Through this partnership, retailers can leverage the same innovative and scalable technologies that power Walmart’s pickup and delivery experiences,” Anshu Bhardwaj, senior vice president of technology strategy and commercialization at Walmart Global Technology said in the announcement.  

Again, like Amazon’s Buy with Prime expansion, Bhardwaj said the effort was aimed at helping small players leverage Walmart’s size and clout to scale their own business and “deliver the personalized, convenient experiences shoppers expect.”

So Now What?

With the retail industry’s two biggest players escalating the competition to add more third-party sellers — and SKUs — to their respective platforms, it’s hard not to think such combat will bode well for small retailers. At the very least, it should likely give brands more incentive to check out — if not use — one or even both platforms to sell their goods. 

In the middle, there will be consumers who should also see some benefits, not only as a result of the competition but from the expansion of products and delivery options that will flow from this, as well as the inevitable future innovations yet to be born. 

“Shoppers continue to expect brands to deliver highly connected and frictionless experiences across physical and digital touchpoints,” Rob Garf, vice president and general manager of retail, Salesforce said, noting that 1 in 5 online orders were already picked up in-store the last weekend of the busy holiday shopping season.

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