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Walmart to go national with price match program

June 5, 2014

Walmart's online Savings Catcher price comparison tool has worked in Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Huntsville, Lexington, Minneapolis and San Diego. On Friday, according to reports, the retailer will announce plans to roll out the program nationwide and also introduce a mobile app version.

As reported by RetailWire in March, Savings Catcher works by comparing the prices of items at the time of receipt — for either in-store or online purchases — with advertised prices in weekly print ads from competitors in the local market. In Minneapolis, for example, price comparisons were made with Aldi, Cub Foods, CVS, Family Dollar, Hy-Vee, IGA, Rainbow Foods, Shopko, Target and Walgreens. If a competitor's ad price turns out to be lower than Walmart's, the retailer credits the customer with an eGift card for the difference.

The program currently includes 80,000 food and household product items. Walmart plans to add clothing, electronics and produce in the coming months. To date, Walmart has processed some one million receipts using Savings Catcher.

[Image: Walmart Savings Catcher]

"Savings Catcher is a brilliant move on Walmart's front to combat dollar stores," Cameron Smith of Cameron Smith & Associates told The Associated Press. "This is what Wal-Mart should be doing — throwing down the gauntlet once and for all that they will not be beat on price."

According to a report on the TWICE website, Walmart plans to increase the functionality of Savings Catcher by offering customers e-receipts and the option of loading purchases into the tool. Automated shopping lists and e-coupons may be included in the future.

"We are going to win by integrating digital and physical," Duncan Mac Naughton, chief merchandising and marketing officer, Walmart U.S., told TWICE. "Savings Catcher and its expanding capabilities are just one example of that. We are well-positioned to innovate and lead in the tech space, and you'll see more of this."

FINANCIALS:     [NYSE:WMT] [ ]

Discussion Questions:

How does Walmart's progress on the omni-channel front compare to its primary competitors? Will its digital and physical store integration efforts lead it to market share gains in the future?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

How likely is it that Walmart's Savings Catcher program will result in higher sales for the retailer?

Comments:

What a stupid gauntlet to throw down! Who can die first? Seriously? I know that Target is getting a lot of traction with Cartwheel. But it hasn't (by the company's own admission) resulted in higher sales. Just more eyeballs.

The problem with a race to the bottom is that you get higher unit sales but sacrifice dollar sales. So will it result in higher sales? It depends which metric you are looking at. Average ticket? Down. Average transaction value? Maybe up, maybe down. Higher revenue. I don't see it.

None of this has anything to do with omni-channel, which is becoming more about a consistent experience and utilization of inventory. How do I rate Walmart on that? When you've left $3 billion on the table because of out-of-stocks, while your average inventory in aggregate is rising, I can only rate it an F.

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Paula Rosenblum, Managing Partner, RSR Research

Cameron Smith says it all. Walmart is throwing down the gauntlet once and for all that they will not be beaten on price. Note that this does not include every item in the store, just those advertised by competitors, so WM may be higher priced on non-sale items, but it sure looks good and reinforces their core brand message. Consumers still have to take a few steps to compare prices and receive a gift card.

In an ideal world, the savings would be instant, at the register, but this is a very big digital step. The ability to automatically load coupons and build in other manufacturer offers is the next step, which is just around the corner.

Retailers should watch this closely. With the continued growth of smart phones apps like this will become the norm. Consumers will use them to comparison shop, collect and redeem coupons and store loyalty points and refunds.

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Max Goldberg, President, Max Goldberg & Associates

If price is the #1 reason for "why Walmart" in the consumers' minds, then this has potential value and ability to drive market share. However, what about other aspects of the customer experience of shopping at Walmart? Do customers already expect low prices and want WM to focus on other areas related to the experience of shopping WM?

In my opinion, for WM to increase marketshare in the long term, it has to supply more than just the lowest price. Being able to instantly compare prices using mobile devices and apps will soon be table stakes for commerce and any merchant not able to price-match or at least be +/- percentage points will not succeed. Think about gas stations - price is seldom the reason why consumers fill up their tank at one or another as most gas station owners constantly adjust their prices in tandem to ensure they are all offering gallons of gasoline at the same easily-understood price. Consumers make the decision of where to shop based on other factors such as convenience, clean bathrooms, clean stores, great coffee, other other factors.

At WM, there are other areas of competitive differentiation where WM may be falling behind in the eyes of the consumer. I know customers who are fed up with the return process at Walmart versus Target - it's a hassle and time-consuming. Others feel that the sales associates at WM are less than helpful.

WM needs to really understand why consumers shop their stores versus competitors, and look at not only prices, but the entire shopping experience starting at home, and ending with post-purchase needs and behaviors. Fair pricing is a key component to the buying decision, but it's only one factor among many. And to compete in the long-term, WM has to address more than price to continue to gain marketshare.

Gary Lee, President & CEO, InReality

 
13

I believe that Tesco features a similar offer in the UK. The advantage?
In a race to the bottom, the low cost provider wins. So, it's no wonder that these mega-retailers are at the forefront of these offers.

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Liz Crawford, VP, Strategy & Insights, Match Drive

Living in Huntsville, I've used the Savings Catcher tool, and I have to agree with the others that it really has nothing whatsoever to do with omni-channel. The improved functionality - e.g. e-receipts and loading purchases on the tool - will be refreshing as having to manually input the long receipt codes is an extra step fraught with potential operator error (I had at least two receipts rejected because of typos!). That being said, some of the other functionalities represent Walmart playing catch-up with its competitors, like Kroger.

In my usage, I didn't find the WMT savings to be worthwhile enough to offset the superior shopping experience at Publix and in fact, have yet to redeem my e-card. Obviously this is a focus group of one, but I have to imagine that hard-core deal seekers can easily use other retailers' layered promotions and loyalty schemes (all excluded in WMT's comparisons) to achieve comparable or better savings.

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Kelly Tackett, Research Director, Planet Retail

Not sure if I would classify Savings Catcher as an omni-channel initiative, but it introduces what I expect will be an emerging trend in fast-moving retail.

Walmart correctly reasons that it should never be visibly higher on an advertised deal item. Rebates after the fact permit it to stand on this claim - even if it's still undercut on many non-advertised items across the store.

Gathering the required data from competitors' sites and circulars is not too hard to do, although it requires a significant commitment to cover trading areas across the country. Since the system requires the shopper to enter a transaction number on the Savings Catcher web page, it creates a shopper database that is not a loyalty program, but will reveal insights about faithful users.

Welcome once again to the post-loyalty era in retail. This may look like a "race to the bottom" on price, but it's really affecting only a subset of transactions (where shoppers bother to close the loop) and a small subset of sale items in each market each week.

Walmart gains a persuasive EDLP marketing claim. It keeps pressure on Hi/Lo competitors. It accumulates massive shopper data by linking transactions by registered participants, without a loyalty card program.

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James Tenser, Principal, VSN Strategies

Okay, tell me why Walmart charges $2.79 for a box of bran flakes, but I can buy the same thing at Harris Teeter for $2.17 or Save-a-Lot for $1.99.

Walmart doesn't care about competition. They have known about the above situation for at least two years and have chosen to ignore it. In spite of Walmart's advertising, I can shop in Publix for only pennies more than Walmart. Maybe I am not buying the "right things," but I am buying what I need. I think this is a smoke screen and will not amount to anything.

Ed Dennis, Sales, Dennis Enterprises

I agree with Paula. Walmart is making a strategic mistake and helping their competition.

Dan Jones, VP Channel Development, SmartReply

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