Lately, when a mother of young children tells me she buys paper products, diapers, coffee, and other necessities anywhere other than from Amazon Prime, I wonder why. Yes, businesses and marketers have mixed feelings about the Goliath that is Amazon. But there’s a reason why Amazon is slaughtering the competition. Actually, there are a lot of reasons. And at the end of the day, Amazon’s secret sauce is giving you a better experience. In fact, a recent study named them best in online customer service for the eighth consecutive year. This holiday I shopped 100 percent online, using Amazon and Walmart.com. The experience with Amazon was better.
A look at the big two for family products – Amazon and Walmart.com
From an e-commerce marketplace point of view, Amazon and Walmart are giants, and Amazon will get bigger with growth projections at 23 percent in 2013. Amazon is the largest global e-commerce provider and Walmart is the largest offline global store. Overall, Walmart sells more products. Analysts love to watch the war between these titans. The New York Times recently reported, “Amazon’s sales, at $48 billion in 2011, are more than a tenth of Wal-Mart’s, which were $419 billion in 2011. But increasingly, they are competing for the same customer and the same turf. ”
Amazon also has 183 million products, which could fill 1,290 Walmart Supercenters . Yet, while Amazon leads in customer satisfaction, Walmart is making strides as this year’s Mobile Commerce Awards Mobile Retailer of the Year for work including an improved mobile experience, use of mobile bar codes, implementing augmented reality, price scanning, uses of digital lists/coupons, and location services.
Versus the local store, both Amazon and Walmart offer a lot of benefits, including “e-packs” (larger pack sizes that offer greater value), rich information at the product shelf, massive selection, and convenience. While all of these reasons to shop at either location are compelling, based on my experience, Amazon is a better option..
Amazon Prime with Amazon Mom is hard to beat. Buy a few rounds of coffee or paper towels and you’ve paid for Amazon Prime and never left the couch, plus you got free video streaming and book rentals. Yes, Walmart.com offers free Site to Store shipping (but who wants to go to the store with their young kids?), free shipping on qualifying items with orders of $45 or more and some items at $0.97. Unfortunately, these options are not enough to overcome Walmart.com’s experience.
Walmart.com’s shipping and service problems
I ordered a toy and sent it to my nephew for his birthday on November 28. By December 20, it still had not arrived. So I called FedEx and they told me that Walmart.com’s contract with FedEx has a sub-contract to USPS. Both FedEx and Walmart claimed that once the USPS had their package, they could not track it and consumers have to “check” with a local post office (keep in mind that metro area post offices have many “local” locations).
My family started checking with several post offices and disgruntled post office workers admitted to her that they were not delivering some packages. Instead, they just waited for consumers to come pick them up because metropolitan mail was too busy. One FedEx service rep told me, “People need to complain to Walmart. We subcontract because that’s how they keep shipping prices low. They need to feel the impact of USPS being less dependable.”
I tried several methods from afar to find this lost package. I went to the website. Walmart doesn’t list a phone number. I tried the email option, but after three days I had not heard a reply. So then I went to social media. I sent a Tweet to @Walmart and got no reply. Then I went to Walmart’s Facebook page. I posted on their wall and they re-directed me to their Facebook customer service app. So I posted there and did not hear back for a day. Then several of my friends started commenting on my original wall post.
At that point, Walmart started replying. Someone in my network found a customer service number for Walmart via a Google search. I called it and there was an approximate 20-minute wait. I had to keep my sitter over-time to watch my kids while I was dealing with the order. Once I talked to a representative, she agreed to refund the order and noted that my order had “high escalation priority due to social media activity.” To replace the never-received gift, I went on Amazon and the order was delivered via Prime in two days. Then I learned that Walmart.com systems do not talk to each other. After the order was refunded, for over a week Walmart.com was still sending tracking updates via email and their Facebook app.
Amazon earns the name “Prime”
I ordered one order from Walmart.com, and after a month it still had not arrived. I ordered nearly 20 holiday orders from Amazon and all were delivered within 48 hours. I returned three gifts to Amazon, and my account was credited and new items were received in under a week.
Families shop online for the convenience and value offered by online scale. Amazon Prime delivers all that dependably, plus entertainment perks. So cheers to Amazon. This past holiday, more than their competitors, they proved their service truly is “prime.”