Will Walmart Win Back-to-School with Click-and-Collect Services?

By George Anderson, RetailWire.com


For many retailers, back-to-school (BTS) represents the second biggest sales opportunity behind Christmas to boost their top and bottom lines. This year promises to be as competitive as ever as consumers alter traditional patterns of shopping and retailers look for ways to win their business. Among those retailers is Walmart, which announced last week that it has taken steps to make it faster and easier for customers to shop for BTS.

Walmart announced it has “substantially” expanded its selection of BTS and back-to-college (BTC) items that customers can order online using its Online Grocery Pickup and Pickup Today services. A new dedicated section on walmart.com called “TeacherLists” provides parents and kids with their school’s official supplies list.

The retailer is also positioning BTS “helpers” in stores — think the checkout elves it deployed during Christmas — to help customers who didn’t order online find the shortest lines and add any items that may have been forgotten while shopping.

“It’s always been our job to save our customers money and we aren’t changing — you can still find more than 300 items under $1 at Walmart this back-to-school season — but we’re doing more than that,” said Scott Bayles, vice president of stationery, Walmart U.S. in a statement. “We’re also saving our customers time with easy ways to shop and multiple ways to get these items to students, so everyone can ace their school shopping.”

New research from Deloitte suggests Walmart may be ready to post big numbers as 81 percent of those surveyed said they are planning to shop at mass merchants, a 24 percent jump from last year. Preconfigured classroom supply kits offered by sites such as School Tool Box (www.schooltoolbox.com) also figure more prominently in consumers’ plans with 30 percent of families planning to use them.

According to the National Retail Federation’s annual BTS and BTC survey conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics, total spending for school and college will increase 10 percent this year. The survey points to a growing school population, changes in the supplies being purchased for college students and general confidence in the economy as factors in the expected jump in sales.


Discussion Questions:

In what ways do you see consumers’ back-to-school and back-to-college shopping behavior changing and how is it affecting retailers? Is Walmart on the right track to increase its share of sales based on its announcement?


Comments from the RetailWire BrainTrust:

This is probably one of the biggest areas of overlap between Walmart and Amazon, so grab the popcorn and a comfy chair — this one’s worth watching closely. It’s also a real test of Prime and same day delivery vs. click and collect as the last minute buying frenzy in early September kicks in. Too close to call!
Ken Lonyai, Consultant, Strategist, Tech Innovator, UX Evangelist

The line between online and in-store shopping is becoming blurred as consumers seek an omnichannel experience that better fits their schedule and preferences. While Amazon is mostly limited to online sales (with the exception of some experiments with physical stores), Walmart is creating more options for consumers and is leveraging their workers and physical stores to accommodate for a variety of shopping preferences. With Walmart increasing online options, creating a more pleasant in store experience, and providing the option to order online and pick up in store, Walmart is definitely on the right track to increase its share of sales.
Min-Jee Hwang, Director of Marketing, Quad Analytix

Depends. If consumers just need to get the items in the most efficient manner, then click and collect will be strong. If, however, BTS shopping is a ritual or rite of passage, then consumers may want to shop in-store. Maybe letting the kids shop online will be the new ritual.
Camille P. Schuster, PhD., President, Global Collaborations, Inc.

Back-to-school is a terrific solution selling opportunity for online retailers that hasn’t been very well exploited to date. There are strong opportunities for both delivery (think about a Prime Pantry type BTS solution) and for click and carry. With that said, there will undoubtedly be items that kids will want to pick out in person. Sometimes kids will want to touch, drop and kick the Pokemon lunch box before they decide that it’s the right one for them.
Ken Cassar, Vice President, Principal Analyst, Slice Intelligence

As Amazon continues to invest in convenience as a strategy, Walmart must respond. This BTS/BTC program is an excellent counter-punch that not only enhances the convenience for shoppers, but draws them into the stores for pickup where we know shoppers are highly likely to spend more. The addition of helpers inside the store is also a smart move. Lift … lift … lift!
Dave Bruno, Marketing Director, Aptos


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                                                                         Early August 2017