Battle for the Buyers

How many of us turned to online shopping when the pandemic hit? We renewed our Prime memberships repeatedly and filled up our virtual carts with goods ranging from office supplies to clothes to food. The ease of one-click checkout and fast shipping pose great appeal to many, and as a result, Amazon has been growing tremendously in recent years. In fact, new data shows that the company just surpassed the retail giant Walmart and became the largest retailer in America in the past twelve months. This information only serves to further support our generation’s shift into the e-world for all aspects of our life. But there’s only one question left to ask ourselves: should we support this transition?

First, let’s start with the stats. If you feel a little on edge regarding a full shift to Amazon, I can assure you that most of the country has already begun the transition. In fact, as online shopping continues to make up a larger proportion of total purchases, Amazon’s overall revenue increases at a rate higher than Walmart’s. Amazon’s revenues have actually seen upward of a $100 billion rise – over 35 percent more – in the past year. Walmart’s revenue, too, has increased but not to the same extent. From these numbers, we see clearly that the buying habits of Americans have changed recently. But why? 

Amazon’s uniqueness in terms of products, reliability, and efficiency cannot be matched. Almost anything can be purchased from Amazon. Whether you need a last-minute concert outfit, a Pura Vida necklace, Lego toys for your cousin, or even chopsticks shaped like lightsabers, you can find it on Amazon. Walmart likely does stock a fair number of these products, but not to the same extent, and not all in the same place, making Amazon the better option. Specifically, many Walmart products belong to their respective Walmart brand – whether that be Great Value, Equate, Avia, etc. – while Amazon makes it easy to shop from an immense variety of brands, ranging from cheap items to the most coveted designers. I love the ease of having everything in one place. The options are endless! Also, because these items can be bought from the multitude of sellers found on Amazon, I always feel confident that the item I want will be available. I also alluded to Amazon services, such as Prime Video, earlier. This streaming service offers great entertainment options (I highly recommend The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel for the comedy seekers, and science fiction shows such as The Expanse) that simply can’t be found anywhere else. Evidently, Amazon’s status as a marketplace is vastly superior to Walmart’s status as a retailer.

Now, consider the power of network effects. The thousands of reviews on Amazon products ensure that you can receive the best quality of the item you seek to buy. Consider a random object – how about a bluetooth speaker, an item used by a wide range of people? A high rating number for a Walmart bluetooth speaker clocks in at just under 1500 reviews. An Amazon bluetooth speaker, on the other hand, boasts over 156,000 reviews, over one hundred times as many as the Walmart one. I purchased a set of earbuds with similar review numbers recently, and I chose the Amazon one. It seemed much easier to trust their quality because so many other buyers had affirmed it. If these buyers felt pleased, I probably would, too. The growing popularity of Amazon, seen its recent surpassing of Walmart, helps all of us feel more confident in choosing it as our main shopping platform.

Finally, we reach efficiency, perhaps the biggest benefit of shopping through Amazon. Estimated arrival dates for Amazon products purchased with Prime beat Walmart’s by about two days. Often, I wait until the last minute to buy something, so this rapid shipping saves me. Need an outfit for the football game on Friday, but it’s already Wednesday? Definitely go Amazon. Also, just as Walmart offers the option to return an unwanted item to a local store, Amazon offers the option to return an item to a locker at your nearby Whole Foods. This locker method greatly improves on the hassle of waiting in annoying customer service lines that sometimes don’t even fix your problem. Thus, if after reading the thousands of reviews you still end up with a product you don’t want, Amazon provides a much easier return process than Walmart.

All of this being said, we also must consider the moral consequences of switching to Amazon. The efficiency and other benefits come at a cost, including poorer environmental initiatives than Walmart. However, given the rapid increase in Amazon’s technology in such a short amount of time, such as guaranteed two-day delivery that seemed futuristic back when we seniors were in middle school, I feel confident that the online superpower can work toward meeting Walmart’s lower waste production and increased use of reusable energy. In any case, Amazon seems to emerge the winner in almost every aspect, and its recent success reflects its status as the more efficient, reliable, versatile, and popular company. Considering these benefits, Amazon is the better route to a world of online purchases.