Early in August, Walmart make the major $3.3 billion dollar cash purchase of Jet.com. The acquisition set new records as the largest purchase of a U.S. based e-commerce startup. Clearly Walmart is hoping that pulling the growing e-retail site into its brand will help it set another record, transforming the formerly brick-and-mortar retailer into an omni channel organization capable of giving Amazon.com a real rival. Yet the question remains whether Walmart’s brick-to-click movement will be as effective as Amazon’s click-to-brick expansion.
Initially functioning in separate retail realms, Walmart dominated the brick-and-mortar scene with its efficient big-box operations and Amazon reigned as the leading e-retailer with its wide variety of products and record breaking shipping times. The division couldn’t last. Innovator Amazon began expanding its services into brick-and-mortar book and grocery stores, utilizing technology to sync shoppers’ experiences with the Amazon site and mobile platforms. With its successful grocery branch at risk, Walmart similarly had to push into omni channel retailing – and after struggling to make a dent in Amazon’s sales, Jet.com provided the most effective and rapid means of expansion. Will it be enough?
Certainly Amazon sacrificed early profits to invest in technological innovations—the likes of which have set new industry standards and now drive consumer expectations—and its most recent series of earnings reports suggest this has paid off. To what extent will retail stores add to Amazon’s flexibility, expanding consumers’ access to its array of products? Meanwhile, as Walmart begins harnessing Jet.com’s potential, with the company continue to lag behind or can it benefit from the groundwork laid by its competitor?
As both retailers expand their omni channel presences, it is too soon to tell whether brick-to-click or click-to-brick augmentations best position a retailer to maintain flexibility and grow innovation.
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