Wal-Mart eyes Amazon, pushes online sales

Walmart storeUS supermarket chain Wal-Mart is all about online, anticipating digital sales next year will rise about 40 per cent and that it will add 1,000 US online grocery locations.

The retail behemoth is predicting net sales growth at or above three per cent, driven by online sales and growth from existing stores.

Wal-Mart kicked off its annual investor meeting on Tuesday in Bentonville, Arkansas by saying it plans a $US20 billion ($A26 billion) share buyback plan. Wal-Mart is armouring up online to take on Amazon.com and more traditional rivals, like Target.

The company paid more than $US3 billion for the online retailer Jet last year to speed its evolution. It’s also deploying digital kiosks called Pickup Towers at a hundred of its stores which spit out products bought on Wal-Mart.com.

The company went live with voice-activated shopping with Google in answer to of Amazon’s Alexa-powered Echo devices. Wal-Mart said customers can now start shopping for more than 2 million Wal-Mart items via Google Assistant as well as Google Express and its app.

And starting next month, returns may be getting easier. Customers can scan goods they no longer want with a smartphone and drop them off at a customer service desk. Wal-Mart said that will take 35 seconds or less.

Earlier this year, Wal-Mart revamped its shipping program and now offers free, two-day shipping for online orders of its most popular items with a minimum purchase order of $US35. But as Wal-Mart moves into the digital space dominated by Amazon, Amazon is encroaching on the physical realm to win over more customers.

In August, Amazon closed on its $US13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods Market and quickly prices on key products. It’s also cut a deal with Kohl’s that allows for the return of Amazon goods at stores in Los Angeles and Chicago, which are packaged and shipped out by workers there.

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