I see your Dash Button and raise you a kiosk

Walmart recently announced a test in some Texas markets that suggest a new hedge against Amazon: in-store kiosks.

…the retailer is testing a new program that would allow customers to immediately place an online order for an item that isn’t in stock…

…Walmart CFO Brett Briggs unveiled the tests during an investor conference Wednesday, describing the system as an “endless aisle-type concept.”

Walmart being Walmart, this otherwise straightforward pilot could take on any number of overtones.  It doesn’t take too much imagination to wonder if the kiosk represents an initiative to reduce labor costs.  As a former contractor who worked on the Sam’s Club business, I can attest to their emphasis, which I think you could fairly call an obsession, on reducing costs of any kind.

However, I think the kiosk has another goal: countering Amazon’s Dash Button.

I guess a button for “Wad of Target shopping bags” wasn’t an option

The Dash Button threatens Walmart’s status as the go-to store for FMCGs–fast-moving consumer goods.  The button succeeds because the Amazon customer can place it where he keeps, say, laundry detergent and simply press it when he runs out.  The operative phrase is “while I’ve got it on my mind.”

Walmart’s planned kiosk also works on the “while I’ve got it on my mind” principle.  Imagine your Walmart customer looking for a new toy such as Log for Girls and finding them out of stock.  She might pull out her smartphone and order it from Amazon or make a mental note to buy it online at home.  Walmart gives her the opportunity to take care of it right then and there.

The article cited above also notes that the kiosk offers opportunities to upsell and cross-sell and to help the shopper find an appropriate item based on needs, much in the way that Amazon does.  As Amazon tests physical stores and as Walmart continues to find its way with ecommerce, we can expect these action-and-reaction tactics to continue and escalate.

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