I had an interesting discussion with my co-workers today about how we shop at big-box department stores like Target and Wal-Mart, versus how we shop online on Amazon.
The conclusion we came to was that they're two completely different ways of shopping for us, and presumably for most consumers. Target and Wal-Mart are stores we visit to purchase multiple items, often commodities -- things like batteries, cleaning supplies, random housewares, socks, maybe snacks and groceries, and sometimes small appliances like a toaster, for example. Amazon is somewhere we go to purchase one-off items that require research and price comparisons: a DVD box set, a DSLR camera, and yes, a toaster. But most of the time we go to Amazon just for one thing, not like you visit a Target store for a "Target run," grabbing all kinds of random stuff.
The way we shop at Target and Wal-Mart stores is different from how we shop on Amazon.com.
Perhaps this is why yesterday's news from Bloomberg (Nov. 18) -- Target and Wal-Mart saw slowed online sales growth last quarter -- was not a big surprise to us. We can understand why it's challenging for Target and Wal-Mart to make inroads in e-commerce because most consumers don't think of Target and Wal-Mart as e-commerce destinations.
I have honestly never purchased anything from either company's website, either for delivery or for in-store pickup. (Full disclosure: We only had Target for a short period of time here in Canada.) I have, however, purchased dozens of things from Amazon in my lifetime. And yes, they were mostly one-off purchases. The only multiple-item purchases I can think of were two or three books at a time.
In a timely contrast, a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll announced today, found 51% of repondents plan to do their online shopping at Amazon this holiday season, compared to 16% at Wal-Mart, 3% at Target and 2% at Macy's.
51% of consumers plan to do their online holiday shopping at Amazon, compared to 16% at Wal-Mart and 3% at Target. Source: Reuters/Ipsos poll
"For many shoppers, Amazon has become synonymous with online shopping," wrote Reuters' Nathan Layne. "It gained tens of millions of members to its Prime service by offering access to movies, music and other services in addition to free shipping in return for an annual fee."
I would agree with that. When most people think Amazon, they think: online shopping. When they think Target and Wal-Mart, they think: I need to make a list and hop into my car to make a trip to the store. At least for now. And so it remains an uphill battle for Target and Wal-Mart to increase awareness of and sales from their online stores.