Will last-minute pickup payoff for Walmart?

Photo: Walmart
Dec 11, 2017

Doubling down on the service, Walmart announced plans to offer “more items for same-day pickup than ever before” to serve holiday procrastinators.

Like holiday 2016, Walmart is giving customers the option of reserving items bought online until 4 p.m. local time on Dec. 23 for pickup in-store on Dec. 24 by 6 p.m. local time. Qualifying items will be marked “Free Pickup Today” online.

Walmart promises the “hottest gifts at incredible prices” will be available for pick-up. They include the Samsung 58” Class Ultra HD TV for $548, Beats Studio3 Wireless Headphones for $349, the Barbie DreamHorse and Barbie Doll for $75, and Keurig K-Compact Single Serve Coffee Maker for $49.96.

“We started the season by promising more – more assortment, more savings, more convenience and more fun,” said Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising officer, Walmart U.S. in a statement. “We know the vast majority of our customers are still shopping and there is no more important time to deliver on our promise than the final days before Christmas.”

Walmart noted that 90 percent of Americans live within 10 miles of one of its stores, “making pickup a fast and convenient option for customers.” The retailer also noted that it sees demand for same-day pickup orders double during the last two weeks of the holiday season.

The increased items available for in-store pickup comes as Walmart has tripled the overall amount of items available on walmart.com under the guidance of Marc Lore, the founder of jet.com. 

In-store pickup continues to be seen as a key advantage Walmart and other large chains vs. Amazon, which has comparatively few Whole Foods locations and Amazon Lockers spots to handle pickups.

Among those promoting the service:

  • At Nordstrom, customers who have placed an order online for in-store pickup can call or text a curbside pickup phone number 10 minutes before reaching the store. A Nordstrom employee will meet them at a designated pickup spot. At 10 of its stores, Nordstrom has rolled out 24-Hour Curbside Pickup.
  • Target claims that 95 percent of online orders are ready for pickup at a store within one hour.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see in-store pickup becoming a major holiday driver or will it become simply an everyday expectation for consumers? Is in-store pickup a big holiday season advantage versus Amazon for retailers with many physical stores?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"If they go in-store to pick up an order, customers may well decide to do the rest of their shopping there too."
"I see it as a minor advantage but a bigger step forward for Walmart’s omnichannel ambitions."
"Walmart is talking directly to its customers about another positive Walmart experience."

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27 Comments on "Will last-minute pickup payoff for Walmart?"

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Keith Anderson

I wouldn’t characterize it as a game-changer, but it does represent a material advantage Walmart has over Amazon, whose logistics network is already under strain to deliver on-time with two weeks to go until Christmas.

This will also help condition shoppers to pick up online orders in-store, which Walmart is otherwise trying to incentivize.

I see it as a minor advantage but a bigger step forward for Walmart’s omnichannel ambitions.

Tom Dougherty

As I see it, in-store pickup is now a demanded convenience. We will see how Walmart manages the experience.

If shoppers have to fight with long lines and long waits to utilize it … well then, expect it to be a catastrophe.

Like everything else in retail today the mantra is “make it easy for me.”

Sterling Hawkins

It is all about the experience and it needs to be fast, smooth and accurate so there is a value add over picking items from the store yourself. Especially around holiday time, there’s a lot of value in offering a service like this.

Phil Masiello

In-store pickup for last minute gifts will probably drive some incremental revenue. Is this an Amazon killer? Walmart would need to do a lot more to get the retention Amazon has.

Prime members, which at last count were over 50 percent of the adult U.S. population, can get last-minute delivery on the 24th in most markets.

If stores were convenient and consumers wanted to drive to the store, park, walk in, pickup, walk out and drive home then e-commerce would not be growing as rapidly as it is.

Charles Dimov

In-store pickup isn’t a holiday driver — its a holiday saver! That is, for holiday shopping procrastinators like me. .. I love the idea that I can count on Walmart and several other retail brands for in-store pickup. Online the shopper secures the item (it’s always a pain to have the last product snatched before you get there), and the store has it ready within a few hours for pickup on the way home, or while doing errands.

The best part is that when a shopper is already at high anxiety levels (with more items for their shopping list), the retail brands that save them the aggravation will be remembered in a very positive light. Good for loyalty, perhaps?

Brilliant move on Target’s part too; “Target claims that 95 percent of online orders are ready for pickup at a store within one hour.” Too many retailer still have pickup availability within three to seven days in their terms and conditions. That’s just crazy. Target’s got the right idea here — a best practice, in fact.

Shep Hyken

The opening line of the article sums it up: “Doubling down on service … ” Consumers already know that Walmart is known for low prices and large selection. Anytime you can back that up with more service and convenience, you have a winning combination. So during the busy holiday season (as well as any other time of year), this is something that could help drive more sales to Walmart. The key will be getting customers to know about the service — and use it.

Ken Lonyai

In-store pickup will be a driver for the shrinking last-minute shopper segment and then it will become an everyday expectation. However, if those items sell out before last-minute shoppers get theirs, Walmart or any retailer can kiss those customers goodbye forever.

Max Goldberg

In-store pick up is another way that retailers are trying to drive holiday sales by making it easy for consumers to get what they want. With last-minute holiday gift deliveries being suspect, consumers can be sure of getting what they want, when they want it — an advantage over Amazon and other e-commerce merchants.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.

Convenient (hassle-free) in-store pickup will become the new normal. Like the cat who tasted fresh tuna, it is not going back to canned tuna. This could be one of the tactical options to assist Walmart in its battle with Amazon and other online retailers. However, like all such experiments the key will be Walmart’s ability to create a hassle-free experience.

Chris Petersen, PhD.

When doing battle in the land of giants, leverage your strengths. Smart move by Walmart to leverage the convenience of the proximity of their store base to reach core customers. What’s so different about Walmart is that more than 100 million customers visit their stores every week. Same-day click and collect has high value for core customers making routine trips to stores for essentials.

While many Amazon and Walmart innovations get introduced during holidays and peak periods, they have the effect of ratcheting up consumer expectations of what is possible, and “normal.”

Consumers no longer separate physical from digital retail, they expect speed (within hours) and convenience on their terms.

Jon Polin

It’s smart of Walmart to take advantage of their “90 percent of Americans live within 10 miles of one of its stores” strength. Though most of my frequent online orders arrive on time, as the holidays approach I get nervous about shipping and weather factors. To know I can personally go into a store and grab the items that are waiting for me and that I have already purchased, does offer some comfort. While I see this service as most relevant this month, I always love having a BOPIS (buy online pickup in store) option, especially on certain categories such as grocery.

Neil Saunders

Walmart’s efforts are to be applauded, however this is now very much a hygiene factor that consumers have come to expect.

That said, execution is everything: many retailers will offer this but execute poorly, which will frustrate consumers.

Dr. Stephen Needel

Good for Walmart, but not a game changer — it will become an everyday expectation. For the holiday season, it’s probably less important an advantage for Walmart v. Amazon. As said above, I’m sure lots of people would rather avoid the store and/or the lines.

Steve Montgomery

In-store pickup was a “needed to win” and has become a “needed to play.” The questions now are, how far in advance does the order have to be placed and how convenient is the pick-up process?

From the consumer’s point of view, the answer is, “I’m in the parking lot placing my order and would like it delivered to me now.” For the retailer the answer is far more complex. It requires the balancing of being a retail location versus a warehouse, balancing the labor devoted to each group of customers, etc.

Byron Kerr
Byron Kerr
Head of eCommerce, Tuft & Needle
4 years 6 months ago

This is a critical component to omnichannel success. Walmart continues to double down on its omnichannel strategic advantage and their holiday sales “should” surely benefit.

However, execution is key. A Black Friday purchase from Walmart.com this year is JUST now preparing for delivery to me — Amazon has spoiled us with two-day or less shipping and Walmart will need to continue to improve its processes further for this supposed “competitive advantage” to materialize.

Cate Trotter

Last minute in-store pickup is a very welcome extra service at this time of the year. By not having to rely on delivery services, Walmart can ensure that as many customers as possible can get the goods they want — even at the last minute. As we get nearer to Christmas customers may also prefer to reserve for collection to guarantee they will have the item in time, rather than hoping things turn up in the mail. Plus, if they go in-store to pick up an order, customers may well decide to do the rest of their shopping there too. I think increasingly this type of in-store pickup is becoming part of the everyday service mix, ensuring that customers can shop in the best way for them, but it’s likely take-up increases during the holiday season.

Gene Detroyer

There are two sides to this coin. It is a good idea and will make a lot of last-minute shoppers happy. But if Walmart doesn’t handle their inventory properly and starts running out of stock at this this critical time, it will double down on customer disappointment.

Ken Morris
Ken Morris
Managing Partner Cambridge Retail Advisors
4 years 6 months ago

In-store pickup has become an everyday expectation for most consumers. This service will be a must-have for retailers this holiday season, as last-minute shoppers don’t want to drive to many different stores to find the one that has it in stock. For products that can’t be delivered same-day by online retailers, such as Amazon, the BOPIS service for retailers with a broad physical store presence will offer an advantage for last-minute shoppers.

With BOPIS now a consumer expectation, the future customer expectation will be same-day delivery to their homes, which is the next level of convenience. Retailers that haven’t implemented BOPIS yet should probably skip that service and move to implementing same-day delivery, as that will be the new normal in the near future.

Seth Nagle

In-store pickup is a must for the holiday shopper for one reason; guaranteed inventory. Heading into a shopping center after Thanksgiving is anything but easy but if you can get your shopping done and item in-hand there’s no better feeling. However pulling up inventory online and seeing it in-stock only to get to the store and find the shelf empty will ruin that shopper’s experience and could ruin that entire relationship. In-store pickup elevates that concern.

Additionally, we all know anything ordered after the 20th via e-commerce regardless of shipping rates is never guaranteed to arrive before Christmas.

Peter Luff

It’s becoming an everyday expectation of the big players. For me personally I think it will be great to have that last minute Get Out Of Jail Free card to play come the last day. It will not kill Amazon but is a good defensive tactic to ensure traditional retailers can stay relevant to customers at times of need rather than always reverting to Amazon.

Joy Chen

In-store pick up is a different strategy to bring value and convenience to compete with Amazon. This is maybe a good strategy for Walmart, particularly when their consumers are looking for better value on the product in return for in-store pickup. However, this will not drive more traffic or advantage long-term.

Cameron Conaway

Walmart has no choice but to leverage its physical footprint, but a few questions remain:

  1. Will customers choose to pick something up when another company will deliver it to their door?
  2. How many of those who pick up will make the purchasing of additional in-store products part of their trip?

This is a great service for retaining existing Walmart shoppers, but it’s hard for me to believe that it’s enough to win over many new shoppers — including those who live near a Walmart but do not routinely shop there.

Dan Raftery

Smart move, assuming they can protect the pre-ordered items. Taking advantage of the extensive store network seems to be smarter than trying to jam more parcels into the already strained home delivery pipeline.

Procrastination behavior is increasing in society in general, as is the expectation that next day delivery is the norm. I see this as a realistic solution to an otherwise increasingly difficult set of consumer expectations.

Joan Treistman

Walmart is delivering an additional message that they are constantly adding services to help their customers have great shopping experiences. That reinforces and possibly enhances their brand equity. The fact that in-store pick up is not unique and probably a requirement going forward doesn’t change the fact that Walmart is talking directly to its customers about another positive Walmart experience.

This year December 23rd and Christmas Eve are Saturday and Sunday, i.e. a weekend and I don’t think that was overlooked by Walmart. More customers available both days for online shopping and in-store pickups.

Lee Peterson

We’ve tested BOPIS with thousands of consumers in several iterations, and to drive up and have someone put your purchase in your trunk is always #1. Walmart is doing that too, not as prolifically, but they are doing both. In any case, they’re doing more than any other physical retailer other than Best Buy on the pick up front, which is saying something.

To us, the idea of pick up IN store works better with a mass merchant like Walmart because there’s so many other things you may need there on a daily basis, like groceries. But if you’re a one-trick pony, like specialty retail, it will be a little tougher to grow.

Min-Jee Hwang

Walmart is smart to highlight is advantages over Amazon. They may have less items available overall, compared to the “Everything Store,” but since online shopping is fueled by convenience, Walmart is choosing the right focus. Holiday shoppers are strapped for time and catering to their busy schedules secures their business. This is another example of using its thousands of stores as an advantage over Amazon. In such a competitive climate, Walmart should be (and seems to be!) making the most out of any leg-up they have.

Kai Clarke

In-store pickup is important, but with demand for employees growing, and the pool of available seasonal workers shrinking, adding increased labor will be difficult, expensive, and perhaps not a profit maker, since the demand for in-store pickup still requires driving to the store, fighting traffic, and parking, just to get a product. All in all, it will not prove to be worth the cost.

"If they go in-store to pick up an order, customers may well decide to do the rest of their shopping there too."
"I see it as a minor advantage but a bigger step forward for Walmart’s omnichannel ambitions."
"Walmart is talking directly to its customers about another positive Walmart experience."

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