What would the world be without rivalries? Pretty boring—we'd miss out on epic clashes between the Red Sox and Yankees, and the Celtics and Lakes (in years past). Perhaps more akin to Godzilla versus Kong, however, we have Amazon and Walmart duking it out in the online shopping space, and both are accelerating shipments of products into the home.
It started with Amazon last month announcing an aggressive expansion of its free shipping perk for Prime membership—it's evolving from free two-day shipping on millions of qualifying items to just one day. Folks who live in certain areas already enjoy the expedited shipping time, and Amazon is investing $800 million of "incremental spend" towards making it more broadly available.
Not to be outdone, Walmart today announced that it too is transitioning to free next day delivery, and without a membership fee.
"We can offer fast, convenient shipping options because we’ve built a network of fulfillment assets that are strategically located across the US. We’ve also done extensive work to ensure we have the right products in the right fulfillment centers based on where customers are located and what they’re ordering," Walmart said.
Next day shipping complements Walmart's same day grocery delivery service. It's available on a "wide range of general merchandise" from the company's website, starting with customers who live in Phoenix and Las Vegas. Walmart plans to add Southern California to the mix in the coming days, and says it will roll out to around 75 percent of the US population by the end of the year.
While there is no membership fee, there is a minimum order amount—shoppers must spend $35 or more to qualify for free next day shipping. In other words, you can't order a $3 toothbrush and expect it to arrive the next day without paying extra. But you can buy a $3 toothbrush and $32 worth of toothpaste, mouthwash, hand soap, and whatever else.
There are around 220,000 items that qualify, ones that Walmart says are "most frequently purchased" (it varies by region). That's far less than Amazon, though Walmart plans to keep expanding the list of eligible items over time.
Fulfillment centers are the key for Walmart and Amazon. Shipping items to the vast majority of Americans in a single day is not an easy thing to pull off, though both retail giants are determined to make it happen.