Will Walmart’s Click & Collect Strategy help them Win vs. Amazon?

As we close in on Christmas 2017, the panic will begin to build for shoppers who are still hunting down their gift lists. Some shoppers will hit the streets in an attempt to secure gifts for their loved ones, but many will try their luck at shopping from their desktops or mobile phones; especially those of us still at work, or those at home trying to sneak some last minute shopping in while juggling other tasks.

For these last minute online shoppers, it’s likely too late for standard home delivery. At this point, they have two options: same-day delivery or Click & Collect.

And so, for our final instalment in this series, the stakes are high. Will Walmart’s Click & Collect service provide a much-needed advantage in eCommerce compared to Amazon? Or will Amazon’s local service, Prime Now, take the cake?

To test Walmart’s Click & Collect service vs. Amazon’ Prime Now, Clavis has tracked multiple key products in 24 cities across the US – looking at availability patterns in the local markets. The stakes are high for shoppers and retailers, and for the manufacturers selling products through these local services. Every out-of-stock could represent a lost sale to manufacturers, and a lost opportunity to maximize profitability in 2017.

How Did Walmart Perform? 

When we started tracking these Christmas products through the local outlets (before Black Friday), both Walmart and Amazon were selling all products in all 24 cities. However, over the last two weeks, we noticed something strange: a large numner of the products have disappeared from Walmart virtual shelves – in all 24 cities.

This week, we removed these products from the analysis on the assumption that Walmart has made a business decision to discontinue offering them. Even after removing these products, Walmart’s availability rates were less than inspiring.

For the week of December 7 – 13, Walmart managed a 70% availability rate for Electronics products across cities. There was a fair amount of variation for the Electronics category day by day, with a general pattern of stronger availability early in the week, gradually slipping as the week progressed. A similar pattern is found in the Toys category at Walmart: 76% availability over the entire week, with availability dipping slightly at the end of the week.

City by city, there was very little variation for Walmart. Instead, we see the same pattern as in the categories, with stronger availability across the board early in the week, and weaker availability late in the week.. On Tuesday the 12th, 10 Walmart city locations were unable to post even a 70% availability rate, surely fustrating last minute shoppers looking for a gift.

Many of the same products that have dogged Walmart’s availability rates were again dragging down the score this week, including Disney’s Lightning McQueen Smart Steer Car – which was only available one day this week, and only in 6 cities at that (Oakland, Orlando, Phoenix, Sacramento, San Antonio and San Diego). Nest’s Learning Thermostat was also guilty of pulling down Walmart’s score – available only in Atlanta on the 10th, and Seattle on the 11th. LEGO’s Princess Belle Castle, a regular thorn in Walmart’s side, was again problematic this week, again in a dramatic fashion. After hitting 100% availability in all locations on the 7th, Princess Belle dropped to 0% availability in all locations on the 8th and 9th. Belle resurfaced on the 10th, but was still out of stock in major locations such as Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles and New York. Then she dropped from sight in all 24 locations on the 13th to end the week.

What About Amazon?

We saw strong availability in local markets for Amazon.

Amazon Prime Now posted an 85% availability rate over the week in both the Electronics and Toy categories. And, of course, at Amazon – unlike at Walmart – all products that we’d monitored from the start of the Sales season were still available. Amazon’s availability by category varied very little over the course of the week, never deviating more than 3% day by day.

Prime Now still had its challenges. In Miami, Prime Now was only able to manage a 66% availability rate over the course of the week. Los Angeles only posted a 71% availability score. Columbus (76%) and Phoenix (79%) had problems as well. By contrast, cities like Austin (93%), Charlotte (92%) and Seattle (94%) posted stellar availability rates for the week.

Similar to Walmart, Prime Now was dogged by ongoing problems with particular products. Audo Technica’s Belt-Drive Turntable was out of stock all week in several markets, including New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles.  In Atlanta, it was available only 3 days. LEGO’s Star Wars X-Wing Fighter started the week strong, but lost inventory steadily. By the end of the week, it was only available in 9 of 24 markets, going out of stock in Seattle, San Francisco & Los Angeles (among other cities). Just like Walmart, Amazon had trouble with Nest’s Learning Thermostat – Managing to stay in stock in only 13 city markets over the 10th, 11th, and 12th. The hot product was nowhere to be found in Cincinnati, Columbus, Dallas and Los Angeles all week. Orlando & San Antonio also had stock issues with Nest’s Thermometer, providing availability only on the 7th, 8th and 9th.

Over the course of the Holiday shopping season, Amazon Prime Now clearly provided stronger availability than Walmart’s Click & Collect service – especially given that we reduced the set of monitored products at Walmart. If we’d continued to factor these apparently discontinued products in, Availability rates for Walmart would have been in the 60% range.

Thanks for Reading!

Both retailers have work to do to ensure availability of products through these local services. As American shoppers continue to take advantage of Click & Collect and same-day delivery services, these services will drive the growth of eCommerce overall. Manufacturers looking to optimize sales through online channels will need to continue to monitor product availability at the local level, to ensure that they are not missing out on local sales opportunities.

Read Part 1 here, and Part 2 here. 

by Danny Silverman

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