Walmart and Amazon are two of the world’s biggest retailers—but who comes out on top?
In 2019, I wrote about seven areas where Amazon and Walmart compete. But times have changed, and so has the retail industry. How do these two retail giants stack up against each other in a post-Covid world?
Amazon and Walmart often compete for the same customers. As two of the biggest retail giants in the world, they also set the tone for other big box stores and online retailers. If Amazon or Walmart do something, you can bet that other companies will follow.
Since I wrote the original article in 2019, both Amazon and Walmart have expanded into new areas and weathered a pandemic. Here’s how they stack up against each other now:
1 . Financials
As of 2020, Walmart’s total equity is $74.66 billion. For fiscal year 2020, Walmart’s revenue increased 6.7% to reach $559 billion. In Walmart’s first quarter of 2021, which ended May 1, the company had total revenue of $138.31 billion, a 6.2% increase over the previous quarter.
Amazon’s total equity as of 2020 is $93.4 billion, and the numbers keep growing rapidly. In the first quarter of 2021, Amazon had net sales of $108.5 billion, a 43.8% increase over the same period in 2020. Amazon’s revenue for the year was $386 billion, a $100 billion increase over the previous year.
Walmart has 2.3 million employees, compared to Amazon’s 1.3 million. In 2020 alone, Amazon added 500,000 employees around the world.
Amazon’s stock price is currently around $3,235, while Walmart’s is $141.
Winner: Walmart by a nose, but Amazon is inches behind. Walmart still has bigger total revenue numbers, but Amazon is growing faster and catching up quickly.
2 . Innovation
Amazon and Walmart tend to be on the cutting edge for innovation. In just the last year, Amazon has announced biometric payments, Amazon Fresh grocery stores, FAA-approved drone deliveries and even a hair salon—all during a pandemic. The company continues to expand to new areas, including adding pharmaceutical offerings and strengthening its smart home devices. Amazon is even in talks to purchase MGM Studios for $9 billion.
Amazon is a leader in innovative technology and automation. In 2021, Amazon will open a 350,000 square foot robotics hub in Massachusetts. The building is part of a $40 million investment into expanding robotic use in the supply chain and fulfillment.
Walmart continues to innovate, especially in streamlining order fulfillment and the customer experience. In 2020, Walmart unveiled Alphabot, a platform that can pick, pack and deliver online grocery orders faster and more accurately than humans.
Walmart is also in the process of redesigning 1,000 stores by the end of 2021 to create a more streamlined and faster shopping experience for customers. The new design relies heavily on increased signage and an updated app to point customers to the exact location of each item, blurring the line between online and in-store shopping.
Winner: Amazon. The company has changed the retail scene with its innovative products and services, and it continues to do so with its leading use of robotics and AI.
3 . Customer Focus
Financial growth is important, but it means nothing without a focus on customers, especially in the competitive e-commerce industry. Amazon ranks in the top five retailers in the American Customer Satisfaction Index, although its score dropped 4 points from 2019 to 2020. Walmart has an ACSI score of 73, below the internet retail average of 78.
Amazon is known for its culture of customer-obsession. Its product recommendations and personalization are unparalleled, with 35% of Amazon purchases coming from recommendations. Amazon has also expanded its grocery delivery and product delivery options to better serve customers, including delivering straight inside customers’ garages.
Walmart understands the value of customer experience and has made many of its recent changes with customers in mind. Walmart’s new store layout is designed to get customers to the exact items they need as quickly as possible. Its renewed emphasis on mobile and online shopping is also done to meet customer needs.
Related to customer focus is the employee experience. Walmart plans to raise average pay for U.S. hourly workers to $15.25 an hour to provide a liveable wage and retain employees. Amazon already pays its employees $15 an hour and recently announced raises for more than 500,000 U.S. employees.
Winner: Amazon. Walmart has made strides in this area, but Amazon is still untouchable with its seamless, convenient and innovative customer experience.
4 . Digital Growth
The Covid pandemic has put all stores on a fast track to digital growth, especially Walmart and Amazon. For the fiscal year 2021, Walmart reported 79% e-commerce growth. Amazon is responsible for 40% of all e-commerce sales in the U.S.—and growing.
Walmart’s updated app and store layout blurs the line between in-person and online shopping and makes a customer’s smartphone a valuable part of the shopping trip. In 2020, Walmart unveiled Walmart+, its answer to Amazon Prime. The new service includes unlimited free grocery delivery, Scan and Go in-store shopping and gas discounts, among other perks. In its first five months, Walmart+ secured around 8 million subscribers.
Aside from its digital shopping capabilities, Amazon has found success in Prime streaming video, which was used by more than 175 million subscribers in 2020, with streaming hours up more than 70% year over year. Amazon Web Services continues to be the darling of the company, bringing in $13.5 billion in profits in 2020.
Winner: Amazon. Its B2B and B2C digital solutions and especially its streaming growth set the tone for many other brands and will only continue to grow.
5 . Retail Presence
Walmart has long held the top spot in terms of physical retail presence. The company has more than 4,700 stores in the U.S—a number that has held steady for the past few years—and 90% of Americans live within 10 miles of a Walmart store.
Amazon is making strides with its physical retail presence. In 2020, Amazon expanded with its own grocery stores. Aside from its 500-plus Whole Foods locations, Amazon is also opening full-size Amazon Fresh grocery stores across the country. There are currently 11 stores in operation, with 28 more in the works, although Amazon is staying quiet about its plans.
Winner: Walmart, but Amazon is catching up. Walmart dominates in physical space with its ubiquitous stores. Although Amazon is growing quickly, it still has a long way to go.
6 . Supply Chain/Logistics
One of the hallmarks of the Amazon experience is quick shipping. Amazon sets the standards for all other e-commerce retailers with its same-day and next-day shipping for Prime members.
Amazon has also built out its fleet of trucks and planes to be completely in control of logistics. The fleet is growing rapidly, with an expected 80 planes in 2021, up from 50 in early 2019. Amazon is also opening a massive air hub in Kentucky in 2021, with room for 100 cargo planes and up to 300 trucks at any one time. In 2020, Amazon got FAA approval for its long-awaited delivery drone that has the power to deliver items in 30 minutes or less.
Walmart is following in Amazon’s footsteps with one-day shipping. In May 2020, Walmart unveiled Express, its two-hour delivery service. Walmart has made huge strides in automating its supply chain and order fulfillment processes for quick and accurate service. Walmart’s innovations make it possible for the company to track and seamlessly restock inventory. Walmart is also expanding its Alphabot system to automatically fulfill customers’ grocery orders and converting more stores into automated fulfillment centers.
Winner: Amazon. The company is building out its logistics arm to rival delivery companies and sets the standard for fast and innovative delivery options. In many ways, Amazon is now as much of a logistics company as it is an e-commerce company.
7 . Sustainability
In early 2020, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos introduced the $10 billion Bezos Earth Fund to invest in environmental initiatives. Amazon is also investing $2 billion in sustainable companies and technology to help the planet. The company has public goals to have half of all deliveries be carbon neutral by 2030, achieve net-zero carbon by 2040 and reach 100% usage of renewable energy by 2025. Amazon uses green office buildings with on-site solar.
However, Amazon is also one of the biggest producers of packaging waste, which comes with the territory of being the biggest e-commerce company in the world. One report estimates that Amazon generated 465 million pounds of plastic packaging waste in 2019, a number Amazon says is overblown. The company has made efforts to increase its recycling packaging, but much of it still ends up in landfills.
Walmart is also dedicated to lowering its carbon footprint. In 2019, Walmart bought more wind and installed more solar than any company in the U.S. and diverted 80% of its global waste from landfills and incineration. Its goals include achieving zero waste in U.S. and Canada operations by 2025, 100% recyclable or reusable packaging by 2025 and 100% renewable energy by 2035. The company is also working towards sustainability throughout its supply chain with investments and improvements around the world.
Winner: Walmart. Amazon made big strides with its sustainability investments in 2020, but it is still a major contributor to the problem. Walmart’s efforts aren’t as flashy, but the company is more transparent about its carbon footprint and is making progress around the world.
So, who comes out on top in the updated battle of Amazon versus Walmart? After phenomenal growth in 2020, Amazon wins the battle. The company is expanding rapidly while continually improving its service and fast delivery.
But keep an eye on Walmart. With a renewed customer focus and an established retail presence, Walmart could continue to see amazing growth.
Both Amazon and Walmart set the bar for all other retailers on everything from logistics to customer service and innovation. If Amazon does it, Walmart and all other companies follow. Their continued push for customers helps move all other retailers to a stronger customer focus.
Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, keynote speaker and the author of the bestselling book The Customer Of The Future. Sign up for her weekly newsletter here.
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