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Walmart Rattles Amazon's Locker

Walmart Rattles Amazon's Locker

Walmart wants people to stop thinking of it as just the largest chain of retail stores in the world. The company has e-commerce envy, and it's going after Amazon by setting up some lockers in its stores -- much like the ones Amazon has located in 7-Elevens and such -- for online customers to pick up their goods. The thing is, Walmart already has in-store pickup, so the lockers may be more for show than customer convenience.

By Erika Morphy
03/27/13 12:08 PM PT

Walmart ratcheted up the e-competition a notch with the announcement Tuesday that it would soon begin offering a locker service similar to the one Amazon recently rolled out.

There appear to be few differences between the two offerings: Both provide secure locations, available 24 hours, where consumers can pick up purchases they made online. Users will be notified when their item has arrived at a locker and given an access code to open it. Amazon already has a number of lockers available around the country; in the Washington D.C. area, for example, there are about 20 locations.

Walmart will eventually leverage its formidable brick-and-mortar network of stores and superstores for the service. For the start of its test run, scheduled to begin this summer, the locker service will be available in about a dozen stores.

A Persistent Push Into E-Commerce

From one perspective, the new service is just an incremental add-on to Walmart's array of existing customer offerings.

"The locker service is just removing some of the friction from the in-store pick up process," noted Michael Harvey, COO of CorraTech.

"Now they don't have to walk into the store, find the customer service desk, wait in line and so on to get their purchase," he told the E-Commerce Times.

However, from a big-picture standpoint, the locker service is very telling. It illustrates Walmart is going to keep pushing into the e-commerce space despite the huge lead Amazon has.

It intends to be "tenacious" in its pursuit of e-commerce marketshare, said Neil Ashe, president and chief executive of Walmart Global eCommerce, when announcing the service.

A League of Its Own

"Clearly Walmart is looking at and responding to what Amazon is doing," CorraTech's Harvey said. "Walmart is among the top e-commerce sites in the world, but it is not in Amazon's league."

One challenge Walmart has is expanding its image as a physical store to include its virtual real estate.

"For most online purchases, people automatically think of Amazon -- and not Walmart, despite the huge number of online sales it has," Harvey pointed out.

That said, its physical store network is a big e-commerce advantage, he continued.

The company might not have attained McDonald's supposed goal of having a location within one mile of every American, but most people are within driving distance of a Walmart, noted Harvey. "There is no way Amazon could ever offer anything comparable, short of, well, partnering with Walmart."

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