Shopping Showdown: The Battle for E-Commerce

Game Predictions

One week left until Super Bowl LII and loyal fans are getting ready for a nail-biter. However, behind the scenes there are two more teams pining to get the attention of the fans. 2 of the US retail industry leaders are fighting it out to see who will reign supreme in the hearts, minds, and wallets of consumers. Who’s playing in this game? Amazon and Walmart.

Now, you may wonder if this is even a hill worth climbing for Walmart. If you want a comprehensive background of the company, check out a fellow classmate’s post that gives a great foundation. However, here we’ll check out how these two companies line up in the e-commerce battle. On one side we have Amazon, the renowned champion of e-tail in America. In opposition we have Walmart, who has been quietly maneuvering to dethrone the current retail champion.

Let’s Talk Numbers

Retail profit margins are notoriously thin, the e-tail space is especially tricky, where currently only two e-tailers (Amazon and Overstock) have become and remained profitable. The primary source of profitability for Amazon has been through Amazon Web Services, but with the rise of things like Google Cloud and Walmart’s OneOps, the market is becoming even more competitive. From a sales perspective, Walmart’s figures are over three times that of Amazon’s, with over $482 billion in 2016 versus Amazon’s $136 billion. And while Amazon’s sales have consistently been on the rise, it still has a long way to go to step on Walmart’s heels. However, many see more promise in Amazon as it’s growth rate has been an average of 28% since 2008. Comparatively, Walmart has had an average sales growth rate of 3%.

Looking beyond these, Amazon typically tailors itself to a higher income demographic, while a larger proportion of Americans shop at Walmart. According to Craig Johnson, president of the retail consulting group Customer Growth Partners, Walmart customers have a median household income of $48K, customers have a median of $56K, and Amazon shoppers hit the median at $85K. Since Walmart reaches a broader base and draws more low-income customers, the popular inelastic goods keep customers coming at all times. Comparatively, any type of economic recession would hit Amazon harder because of the amount of luxury goods it sells. As for stock prices, Amazon has seen great growth since AWS became profitable, however Walmart could benefit from a tilt of consumer perception if their stock prices level out.


Key Players

Market Intelligence leader, SimilarWeb, shared some insights on the digital factors impacting the competition – and I personally found the stats fairly interesting. Both e-commerce leaders have seen an increase in the percentage of visitors that end up purchasing, which is called the conversion rate. While Walmart’s current desktop shopper conversion rate is 4.7% (up 45% over preceding years), Amazon’s rate is 8.6% (only up 16%). This frames Walmart as the major underdog, but they’re focusing on key areas to cut into Amazon’s market.

Walmart is focusing all-in on search . For example, they put a significant emphasis on keyword traffic during the past holiday season. In accordance, they increased their share of traffic for “Nintendo Switch” by 6% in comparison to the top five 2017 holiday retailers. Meanwhile, Amazon’s traffic for the same term decreased by 2%. However, Amazon holds the lead in online traffic from referrals, which is 22% of their web traffic. In comparison, Walmart only has 11% of their traffic from referrals like daily deal sites, media outlets, etc.. If Walmart can focus in on leveraging these two sources, they could cut into Amazon traffic within the near future.

Screen Shot 2018-01-28 at 5.32.14 PM gained some traction against Amazon this past holiday season. 

What are some of the external factors? Well, it seems like we can’t talk tech without Google. Google is well aware that its search and ad business becomes less valuable as people browse on Amazon directly, and thus Google has partnered directly with Walmart. This will keep other e-tail strong by prioritizing them in search results. In a sense, Amazon is up against not only Walmart but also indirectly Google.



How Do They Match Up

All bets are off for which retailer will win this online/offline battle for consumers. Both have maneuvered strategically. Amazon gets free 2-day shipping, Walmart surprisingly adopts the same idea. Walmart lowers the threshold for this shipping perk to $35, and Amazon follows by lowering theirs to $25. How does Walmart deal with Amazon’s Alexa? They develop a voice-shopping platform alongside Google. Where does Walmart build the 1000th location for its pick-up grocery store? Seattle, right in the middle of Amazon-land.

Screen Shot 2018-01-28 at 10.17.17 PM

Walmart’s HQ in Bentonville, AR. Amazon’s HQ in Seattle, WA. Coming soon to a location near you: Amazon’s 2nd HQ. 

So Who Should You Root For?

This is a clash of the titans unlike anything seen in years. Amazon’s dominance online is well-documented, while Walmart’s fleet of stores and huge sales numbers are a matter of record. Amazon is fighting a two-front battle focusing on international expansion, meanwhile Walmart has been making aggressive acquisitions  and marketing moves while quietly innovating at WalmartLabs. Additionally, Amazon is trying its hand in several markets (entertainment, smart technology, web services) which is difficult to leverage such a large scope of projects with a notoriously passionate work environment.

Personally, I love to root for the underdog. Walmart has a historical competitive advantage in retail with a strong supply-chain. The key for their online catch-up is to find a place to close the gap, whether it be search, referral traffic, or increased partnerships. A big disadvantage? Amazon has a huge pool of data to work with, which they successfully use to target customers to come back again and again. No matter which titan comes out on top, the consumers in America are reaping the benefits of this race to improve – online shopping has never been so easy. I can’t wait to visit Walmart Labs and learn even more about their e-commerce initiatives.

Screen Shot 2018-01-28 at 9.57.40 PM.png

9 thoughts on “Shopping Showdown: The Battle for E-Commerce

  1. Incredible post, Abby! I love your quote at the beginning, and I do agree with you that this is a clash between two behemoths the business world hasn’t seen in ages with a lot at stake. Great usage of infographics and images as well!

    I think Amazon will remain in the lead, however. I read an article today in the WSJ about Amazon’s growing advertisement business. Amazon’s exclusive usage of data about their own sales is a huge strategic asset to have, and their advertisement revenue is growing steadily and ready to threaten the advertisement leaders in Facebook and Google. This is just another medium through which Amazon’s revenue will increase. Should be interesting to see who comes on top!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The head to head matchup you pose, with the Super Bowl quickly approaching, is a great framework to use to analyze these tech giants. I love rooting for the underdog as well (Go Eagles!) and would love to see Walmart give Amazon a run for its money. As you mentioned, I think that a consistent, strong partnership with Google is Walmart’s best chance for success. However, incidents like these ( are a step in the wrong direction.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thanks for the post it was very insightful! I had no idea that Walmart had launched their own cloud computing platform. It’ll be very interesting to see what other sectors they attempt to enter. I must overestimate how prominent online shopping is as I was very surprised at how much greater Walmart’s sales were than Amazon’s. One thing I do know is if Walmart is able to successfully rival Amazon in the e-commerce space, the competition will make us all winners as consumers.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post! I love the use of infographics and anecdotes to complement the content. I agree that visiting Walmart Labs will be very exciting and can hopefully shed light on the future of this showdown, but I realistically can’t see Walmart continuing to rival Amazon in e-commerce.

    As you point out, Amazon has the advantage of immense data analytics that it is using effectively to retain customers and grow its user base. On top of that, Amazon is Amazon and remains the go-to e-tailer (I had never heard that term but I love it!). It will also be interesting to see how the demographics shift as Amazon focuses on low-income consumers and Walmart continues to push for sales growth and e-tail sales.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post, Abby! After learning more about Walmart last week, it was awesome to see an in-depth comparison to one of its rivals, Amazon. It’s going to be interesting to watch how Walmart innovates over the next couple of years to compete with e-tail giant Amazon. Like you said, consumers are reaping the benefits of this rivalry! I’m definitely not complaining :).

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great and insightful post! I can’t wait to see how Amazon will continue to innovate in physical retail and how Walmart will innovate in online retail. Who would you say is the dark horse in online retail? I’d venture to say it’s Target. Their acquisition of Shipt solidifies their place in the e-commerce race as they seek to have same-day delivery for a majority of its stores by the end of 2018!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Its really amazing how quickly the script has flipped with respect to Amazon and Walmart. It wasn’t that long ago that Walmart was considered the “evil empire” with respect to business. Now the roles are really reversed. Walmart would much rather be perceived as the underdog.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. What a great post! Both companies are doing an incredible job at targeting customers who regularly shop online, but I think it’ll be interesting to see if either company looks to target rural America, where online shopping is significantly less prevalent. I read a great WSJ article that shows Dollar General, not Amazon or Walmart, is the major player in many parts of the country. This demographic could play a key role in the fight between these heavyweights.


    Liked by 1 person

  9. I loved this post! It was such a fun setup to view them competing head to head because in reality, that’s truly what’s happening. After what you mentioned about each company replicating the others’ ideas (i.e. free two day shipping, the voice-shopping technologies), I wonder how Walmart is reacting to Amazon’s announcement about entering healthcare. It seems like the stakes keep increasing with each new product or service they develop.

    Liked by 1 person

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