Walmart Gives Online Shoppers VIP Treatment to Compete With Amazon

Dolly Parton, retail

As Walmart looks to speed its digital transformation in an effort to shrink the eCommerce gap between itself and rival Amazon, the retailer is giving digital shoppers exclusive access to get them to engage more.

The superstore chain announced via an emailed news release Thursday (April 25) that it is kicking off its first spring Walmart+ Early Access event, enabling members of its paid subscription program exclusive purchasing opportunities, offering “first dibs” on new products such as a Dolly Parton baking set and a range of special edition Oreos. 

A relatively small — but not negligible — share of consumers seek out this kind of VIP treatment.

The PYMNTS Intelligence study “Personalized Offers Are Powerful — but Too Often Off-Base,” which drew from a survey of more than 2,500 U.S. consumers, found that 9% of Generation Z shoppers and 8.2% of millennials cited exclusive access to new products as the personalized offers they are most interested in receiving from merchants. Additionally, higher-income consumers are disproportionately likely to want this benefit.

Walmart’s Digital Transformation

Offering unique experiences for consumers online, as Walmart is doing, can be a key way for brands and retailers to kick their digital transformation up a notch.

Take, for instance, confectionery giant Mars.

In a 2021 interview with PYMNTS’ Karen Webster, Jason Thomstatter, head of digital commerce at Mars, noted that the company has been updating its digital presence to offer unique value that consumers cannot get in stores, such as providing customized M&M candies via a direct-to-consumer (D2C) online shop. Conversely, he noted that in stores, consumers can experience the M&M brand in a more immersive way, engaging more immediately with the products.

“I think there’s different points in time that each consumer is going to want to interact differently with …those different channels, and what we’re able to do is actually leverage those different value props to deliver great experiences across all of those types of channels,” he explained. 

Amazon Makes a Play for More Frequent Online Orders

Meanwhile, Amazon is also looking to boost digital engagement, aiming to embed its offerings more deeply into consumers’ lives by incentivizing consumers to make purchases more often by leveraging the high-frequency grocery category.

The company announced Tuesday (April 23) the launch of a new grocery subscription in more than 3,500 locations around the U.S., providing unlimited free delivery on orders over $35 to Prime members for an additional $9.99 per month and to Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) recipients for $4.99 a month.

“For customers who prefer to purchase their groceries more regularly — whether ordering delivery or pickup — this new grocery benefit will save them even more time and money,” Tony Hoggett, senior vice president of worldwide grocery stores at Amazon, said in a news release

Bridging the eCommerce Gap

When it comes to holding its own against Amazon in eCommerce, Walmart has a ways to go.

The PYMNTS Intelligence study Whole Paycheck Report: New Consumer Spend Data Finds Amazon Way Ahead of Walmart estimates each of the two retailers’ market shares in various categories based on years of earnings reports in conjunction with national data from the U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis. According to supplemental research from the study, as of Q4 2023, Amazon held a 57.2% share of eCommerce retail spending, while Walmart held a 6.8% share.

Granted, Walmart is gaining share, though Amazon is as well, with Walmart’s portion of eCommerce spending up from 6.2% the year before and Amazon’s up from 52.3%.