Walmart on Wednesday announced its holiday plans, including a tripling of its online assortment compared to last year. This weekend, the retailer will unveil "thousands of season-long rollbacks on top gifts," with the toys department alone sporting more than 400 rollbacks on brands like LEGO and Nerf, according to a company blog post.
But the retail giant isn’t adjusting its free shipping or in-store pickup policies, according to the blog post. As of this past January, two-day shipping at Walmart has been free on online purchases over $35, and shoppers since April have enjoyed a discount on select items that they order online and pickup in stores.
Walmart is also throwing more than 20,000 holiday parties at its Supercenters and conducting 165,000 product demos for customers to test and taste top items. Also this year, Walmart is bringing on more of the specially clad "Holiday Helpers," to help customers find gifts and get through checkout.
Unlike retailers waiving shipping fees at the holidays, Walmart in recent years has stuck to its usual parameters, in this case a revised policy forged earlier this year amid the retail giant's massive e-commerce push. Shortly after the new year, the company ended its Amazon Prime-like ShippingPass membership program, which had given members free two-day shipping on most orders for a $49 annual fee. In its place the retailer opened up its free two-day shipping to all customers making purchases of $35 or more, with shipping to stores free on eligible orders.
That prompted Amazon to drop its own non-Prime free shipping policy down to $35, a year after raising it to $50. While Walmart e-commerce chief Marc Lore at the time described the move as a challenge to Prime, it serves as more of a challenge to Amazon’s non-prime customers, who are less sticky because they haven’t ponied up membership dues. That not only gives them more freedom to shop around, but also suggests they may have more interest in saving money than enjoying Amazon Prime’s advantages. Keith Anderson, Profitero VP of strategy and insights, has compared that to cable television customers who'd rather pay à la carte, rather than for a slew of channels they never watch.
On Wednesday, Walmart sought to position that, and its in-store pickup discount, as holiday perks, which will be "playing a big role during the holiday season," Scott Hilton, CFO of Walmart U.S. e-commerce and a former Jet executive, said in the company's blog.
Nearly all holiday shoppers (94%) are looking for free shipping options this season, according to the annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics for the National Retail Federation. Nearly half will take advantage of conveniences like buy online, pickup in store (49%), while 19% will take advantage of expedited shipping and 12% will use same-day delivery, the NRF also found.
Similarly, CPC Strategy earlier this year found that holiday shoppers expect free and fast delivery. Nearly half (46.1%) of shoppers told CPC Strategy that overall price, including shipping, is the most important reason to buy their holiday gifts from a particular retailer. To Gen Z and younger millennial consumers, free shipping is not merely an expectation, it’s also an assumption, CPC Strategy noted. "We’re seeing the impact of Amazon in nearly every answer, but particularly in expectations for low prices and fast, free shipping," according to that report. "The bottom line? If retailers aren't selling on Amazon, they'll need to offer a shopping experience that proves they know their customers better than the retail giant."