29 Mar 2014
In the heated battle currently underway between brick and mortar and online-only retailers, it's not hard to guess which way the tide is going: the ease and convenience of online shopping simply overpowers the traditional model of actually having to visit a physical store. Well, that's true in certain areas, at least. Despite recent expansions into the traditionally elusive markets of fashion and apparel, some sectors seem to struggle with offering online solutions that compete effectively with their offline counterparts. One of the most elusive of these sectors is the grocery and produce market, for relatively obvious reasons.
Walmart, the series of mega-stores first launched in the United States, has always been aggressively conscious about its pricing systems, even to the point of driving smaller local retailers out of business simply by underbidding them, on everything from household items to groceries. Over the past several years, unsurprisingly, they have been losing sales to the online world as many people grow to accept that the convenience of online shopping trumps whatever discount Walmart might be able to offer - although increasingly, online price comparison tools have been able to find better deals for customers than they can keep up with.
As a result, Walmart has taken the unusual step of launching its own price comparison tool, called the "Savings Catcher". It operates something like an expanded version of a customer loyalty program, and in that sense differs greatly from most price comparison solutions. Instead of having customers search out each item they want to buy and find the lowest price, customers who have ALREADY shopped at Walmart enter their receipt number into the website's system, and it will find the lowest prices and credit the difference between lowest prices and what the customer has already payed onto a Walmart gift card.
From an economic perspective, it's an intelligent solution. Walmart is now sitting on your money in advance, which it can do what it wants with while the customer is awaiting their next purchase. However, it fails in comparison to the reliability and flexibility of more traditionally-designed price comparison tools in that it works best on volume purchases - like groceries. Most customers don't buy a huge number of household items all at once, so it's easy to use a more common price comparison tool online to do the job properly. For groceries, however, it would take hours to search out the best prices for a week's worth of family shopping. In this case, and this case alone, Walmart is likely to find success with this tool.
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