Here's how Walmart will fight off Amazon on Black Friday
The retailing giant is pulling out all stops, from free shipping to price match guarantees. And for Walmart, Cyber Monday starts on Saturday.
Walmart is going all out to ensure it is the destination for this year's holiday shopping season -- whether that may be its physical or virtual store.
Late Thursday, it unveiled a dizzying array of promotions, from a lower minimum purchase to qualify for free shipping to select Black Friday doorbuster promotions -- available online ahead Thanksgiving morning. Cyber Monday -- which Walmart will naturally be starting on Saturday -- is extended to an entire week.
Its emphasis to bolster both its online and in-store promotions comes as the retailing industry deals with the impact of online giant Amazon, which has largely eaten the lunch of the traditional brick-and-mortar players. Once staid stores such as Borders and Circuit City have already shuttered, while Walmart and others have reported falling sales and profits.
Walmart, for its part, said the decisions it has made are based on its customers. In fact, Joel Anderson, CEO of Walmart.com US, spent more than 30 minutes talking about the promotions without once mentioning Amazon, even if there were hints of the online retailer in his comments.
"We follow our own playbook, which is unique," Anderson said on a conference call with reporters.
Retailers have traditionally eyed the critical Black Friday period -- which now stretches from Thanksgiving to well beyond the following Cyber Monday -- as a major source of their sales of the year. But the online component is expected to be even more vital this year, especially as traditional retailers try to go toe-to-toe with Amazon online.
In a survey held by Nielsen, 46 percent of consumers said they would shop online on Cyber Monday, up from 30 percent a year ago. In comparison, only 13 percent of respondents said they would shop at physical stores on Black Friday, down from 17 percent in 2012.
Anderson said last year's Cyber Monday was the highest grossing day online in the company's history.
Starting Friday, Walmart online customers only need to order $35 worth of goods on nearly any item to qualify for free shipping. That's the same minimum level at Amazon, which thein October.
Anderson denied there was any link between its new offer and Amazon's policy.
"Customers have told us shipping cost is very important in their decision," he said.
Shoppers can also upgrade to three-to-five-day shipping for $2.97, Anderson said, adding the point that no subscription fee is required -- which could be interpreted as a veiled reference to Amazon's subscription-based Prime program.
Walmart will also match the prices of competitors such as Target and Best Buy, but the company didn't mentioned Amazon.
Several Black Friday deals slated to be found in stores on Thanksgiving evening will be available on Walmart.com that morning, although Anderson warned there would be limited quantities. The decision to add the online component was to create "anytime, anywhere access" to Walmart, and dismissed concerns that the online deals would draw people away from the physical stores.
Walmart.com, meanwhile, is making its big online push starting Saturday, attempting to rebrand Cyber Monday into Cyber Week, which stretches to the following Friday.
Anderson said he opted to kick off Cyber Monday on Saturday because he saw consumer traffic to the Web site spiked that day. To better take advantage of the interest, he opted to kick things off two days in advance.
He promised a large assortment of online deals -- including one-time offers and specials -- as Cyber Week rolls along. Consumers will also be able to order online and pick it up at a nearby store.
Consumers are expected to fork over some big bucks this year. Nearly a third of consumers from all income ranges surveyed by Nielsen say the will spend between $250 and $500 this season, with 20 percent spending $500 to $1,000.
Walmart is hoping a larger share of those dollars end up heading in its direction.