Business Standard

Walmart closes in on Amazon in online price war

- NANDITA BOSE

Walmart Stores is within striking distance of matching Amazon.com’s online prices for the first time, a key milestone in its effort to regain the “low price leader” title.

Walmart has aggressive­ly invested in making its prices more competitiv­e against brickand-mortar rivals since the start of the year.

Now, the shrinking gap is also becoming noticeable across a broad range of product categories online, according to a price study conducted for Reuters, as well as interviews with pricing experts, retail consultant­s, vendors and company sources.

Prices at Walmart.com are now only 0.3 per cent more expensive than Amazon on average, according to the study by retail data analytics firm Market Track, which analysed prices of 213 products in 11 categories over a period of 700 days ending November 7, 2017.

By comparison, Walmart’s online prices were 3 per cent higher than Amazon’s on average in the first 350 days ending November 7, 2016, according to the study.

In the popular wearables category, which includes fitness trackers and smart watches, Walmart’s prices are 6.4 per cent lower than Amazon this year compared to 12.6 per cent higher in the same period a year ago. For sports and outdoor products, Walmart is now 1.3 per cent lower versus 3.5 per cent higher a year ago.

These findings indicate that Walmart has managed to slash prices online across several product categories consistent­ly, rather than with just temporary discounts.

Consistent lower pricing is key to boosting sales throughout the year. On Cyber Monday, the busiest day of the year for internet shopping, online deals and temporary promotions will overshadow pricing for both retail giants.

“We are committed to having online prices that meet or beat prices at other top sites,” said Walmart spokesman Dan Toporek. He said for some items the retailer now displays two prices online to show shoppers when they can get a lower price by picking up their order in a store, but declined to comment further on the company’s pricing strategy.

Amazon spokeswoma­n Kate Scarpa said nothing has changed in the retailer’s approach to delivering low prices to customers.

“Amazon’s prices are as low or lower than any other retailer and we work hard for customers to ensure that’s true every day,” she said, declining to comment further on the retailer’s pricing strategy.

The consistent price cuts are one of several steps Walmart is taking to boost its ecommerce business, including expanding its online offerings, acquiring smaller online retailers such as Jet.com, and offering free-two day shipping.

Burt Flickinger, managing director of retail consultanc­y Strategic Resources Group, conducted his own internal pricing study for clients in Texas last month.

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