News | Strategy: Walmart has a new initiative that proves it still has a serious edge against Amazon in one key way

Strategy: Walmart has a new initiative that proves it still has a serious edge against Amazon in one key way

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  • Walmart is now empowering its store employees to help shoppers buy in store from Walmart.com.
  • It's releasing an app for the devices employees in Walmart stores which will allow them to take to place orders on Walmart.com for customers.
  • It's another example of how Walmart is leveraging its stores to take on Amazon and eliminate the difference between online and offline shopping.

Walmart is giving store employees the full power Walmart.com in the palm of their hands.

Starting Tuesday, Walmart is deploying an app to store employee's in-store touchscreen devices allowing them to help customers buy items on Walmart.com.

"The Dotcom Store offers customers even more assortment options than what’s on our physical shelves –
whether that be different sizes, colors or varieties," said Tom Ward, head of digital and
central operations for Walmart US, said in a statement.

If a shopper in a Walmart store can't find exactly what they're looking for, the employee can help the shopper place an order for any item shipped and sold by Walmart online. They can choose to have it sent to their home or the store for free pickup.

A barcode is then produced — sent via an email, text, or a printed ticket — which is then given to the store's cashier at the end of the shopping trip to be scanned. Once scanned, the shopper can use any form of payment to cover the item — including cash — and the order begins to be processed by Walmart's online order fulfillment network. The customer pays for any physical purchases at the same time, in one transaction.

Read more: Walmart just hit a major milestone in its quest to take on Amazon

The service will be available in nearly all of Walmart's 4,700 stores in the US, greatly expanding their ability to sell customers what they want. The service is currently only available for items sold and shipped by Walmart, but the company said it plans to offer items sold by its marketplace partners soon.

With online sales still only measuring less than 10% of total retail sales in the US, it make sense that Walmart is looking to flex its muscles in the area and show that physical stores still matter for many customers.

It's a clear move to target the shopper that wouldn't first think of going online to buy something — either because they primarily do their shopping in stores and always have, or they lack the means to shop online.

Most customers, one assumes, would just whip out their phone instinctively to find something online if they couldn't find it in store. But some have still not yet been initiated into the world of online shopping, and would need employee assistance getting there.

There's also still a large part of the US population that is considered unbanked — that means no checking account, savings account, or credit cards of any kind.

That leaves this population — an estimated 15.6 million people— without any way to shop online via traditional means. This customer segment has long been one of Walmart's forte, and they have their own products geared toward this customer, like low-fee checking accounts and money services that are done in the store, like low-fee check cashing and bill pay.

Dotcom Store crucially allows for the payment of online sales in cash, which has been something of a holy grail for retailers like Walmart with a large base of low-income consumers.

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By Kwame Ntow 04/12/2018 08:55:00