This document is intended to provide marketers and commerce specialists with a perspective on the recent announcement that Walmart Express will be expanding to 2,000 stores by Mid-May.
On Thursday April 30, 2020 Walmart announced expanding a new Walmart Grocery service called “Express,” which promises orders in two hours or less for an upcharge of $10 on top of the usual delivery fee. “Express” has been in pilot testing across 100 Walmart stores since Mid-April. Walmart plans to expand its new “Express” service to 1,000 stores in early May and 2,000 stores in the weeks to follow.
How it Works
Shoppers fill their online Walmart Grocery cart the $30 minimum required for delivery orders. The “Express” service offers more than 160,000 items from across Walmart’s grocery varying from consumables to general merchandise. Upon check out the consumer will have an option to select the “Express” service for a $10 incremental fee.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen record usage of grocery delivery services such as Instacart (+218%), WMT Grocery (+160%) and Shipt (+124%). This increase in demand has led to delayed orders, fewer open delivery windows and, at times, inability to even book a delivery time slot. In our opinion, through the “Express” launch Walmart now hopes to capitalize on the increased demand in order to:
1. Mitigate losses on their unprofitable digital commerce operations due to variable cost pressures on transportation and a workforce consisting of 74,000 “personal shoppers” who dedicate themselves to pulling for online grocery orders.
2. Retain their current Online Grocery shoppers by enhancing their online shopping experience that has been impacted due to high demand
3. Lastly to retain new Walmart online grocery shoppers who are shopping online for the first time and might be discouraged to shop on WMT.com again due to poor and unreliable experience.
Our 2 Cents
With 90% of all Americans living within 10 miles of a Walmart, its dense store network is WMT’s most significant advantage over Amazon. At the same time this strong advantage serves as a double-edged sword as in-store fulfillment could be depreciative to the in-store and online customer experience. To overcome this, Walmart will require to rapidly innovate its supply chain experience, which includes redesigning store backrooms, retraining employees and building new technologies. All this comes at a very high cost, and requires significant amount of time and analyst buy-ins. With the COVID-19 pandemic increasing the income divide between the rich and the poor. Research shows that Americans earning less than $20K annually are twice likely to have lost their job to COVID-19 as someone earning over $80K. While Walmart is ensuring that “Express” shoppers who can afford shopping online, do not have an advantage over low-income customers, who can only use their food stamps in physical Walmart stores. Walmart needs to have a crisis response in case of negative PR backlash.
WHAT THIS COULD MEAN FOR...
Walmart+: Earlier this year, Walmart introduced “Delivery Unlimited Service” Through Walmart+ as a possible solution that could likely help Walmart sell other products beyond grocery, increase shopping frequency and dollar per trip. To achieve the desired growth, WMT needs to go after the 112 million Amazon Prime members and be distinguished enough for shoppers to pay for both subscriptions. “Express” could serve as a soft launch that could eventually migrate consumers who are willing to pay a premium for an expedited delivery service to become a Walmart+ subscriber and get access to fast delivery service and access to discounts across Walmart’s stores and warehouse clubs.
CPG: The level of change CPG faced in the last 4 to 6 weeks is unprecedented. Multi-channel consumption (Online & Offline) and m-commerce, their integration was well on its way before COVID-19. Ecommerce penetration was supposed to be 16% to 17% depending on the category or brand by 2023. Due to COVID-19 Ecommerce currently penetrating around +20% almost 3 times ahead of the previous estimate. Some of it is attributed to the share shift due to low in-store traffic driven by social distancing. It is estimated that 28% of the grocery shopper placed first-time online orders due to COVID-19. Therefore, CPGs should evaluate performance at a total level (Online + Instore). Further, shoppers are expecting consistency in the online and in-store experience. Walmart Express delivery is yet another example of a seamless shopper experience.