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AMZN vs WMT Weekly: New Leaders All Around

Although the debut of new Amazon CEO Andy Jassy garnered the most water-cooler talk this week as he officially began his new role atop the eCommerce giant, Walmart was making its own executive changes aimed at reshaping its future too.

This as the retailer onboarded Chris Cracchiolo from American Express to run its new Walmart+ membership program which it just launched in September as a competitor to Amazon Prime. Cracchiolo will take over for David Echegoyen, who is leaving for a private equity firm, on Monday.

According to a survey by PYMNTS released in April, the operator of over 4,700 U.S. stores has built a base of more than 60 million consumers using Walmart+ in the first seven months of the membership program — still 100 million fewer people than are signed up for Amazon Prime, yet back to the level of members it had before free trials expired after the holidays.

In Seattle, Jassy’s ascent to Amazon’s top job has long been touted as being seamless, and indecipherable from that of his predecessor, though few believe that will actually be the case once the first significant test arises. That said, Founder and Executive Chairman Jeff Bezos will only be a phone call away, except of course when he is traveling in space which he is set to do in a few weeks. Other than that, Jassy has been by Bezos’ side since the late 1990s, most recently heading Amazon Web Services, and the inverse of that relationship should be the new normal going forward.

One possible first management style test could come from the fact that regulators in the U.S. and Europe who believe Amazon may have pushed the limit of antitrust law to get an upper hand have begun taking a closer look at the company — and Jassy, who reportedly has a kinder demeanor than Bezos, is now the one who has to answer their questions.

AR In The Grocery Store

Walmart this week introduced an augmented reality (AR) experience to its brick-and-mortar grocery aisles, bringing some of the company’s interactive shoppable grocery content from online to in-store.

The AR experience, part of Walmart’s existing partnership with the creators of Netflix’s “Waffles + Mochi” series, could be a way to entice kids to get their parents to return to shopping for groceries (and anything else they need) at a Walmart location. During the pandemic, Walmart featured games, videos and recipes through its “Waffles + Mochi” partnership, guiding children and parents to Walmart’s eCommerce offerings.

PYMNTS research from March found that before being vaccinated, 4 in 10 consumers said they would shop more in grocery stores when a vaccine was available. Using AR technology, Walmart hopes to leverage the partnership for brick-and-mortar shoppers.

Walmart still has a 10-to-1 advantage over Amazon in groceries, but a leaked memo distributed to advertisers in February shows that the box-store giant is starting to get worried. The memo noted that grocery, “the growth engine of the business, is losing share rapidly,” with consumers more often choosing the competition.

Testing COVID-19

Building on the company’s in-house COVID-19 testing program, Amazon this week launched at-home COVID-19 test collection kits for consumers.

The test kit, which is authorized for use by individuals with or without COVID-19 symptoms, is delivered by Amazon Prime at no additional cost, with results available within 24 hours of the test being received by Amazon’s diagnostics laboratory in Kentucky.

Cem Sibay, the Amazon vice president in charge of the company’s COVID-19 testing work, said the collection kit “offers customers what they’ve come to expect from Amazon by providing access to COVID-19 testing whenever and wherever they need it.”

In adding to the company’s healthcare portfolio — Amazon last month began offering six-month prescription refills for $6  — the $40 collection kit is likely to greatly expand consumers’ access to COVID-19 testing. Though several other companies offer at-home tests, including Hims & Hers, Labcorp and Everlywell, Amazon’s is less than half the price of other kits and the company has a much larger reach than nearly any other company. Amazon accounts for over 3 percent of consumers’ overall spending and nearly 9 percent of their retail spending.

“Even as COVID-19 vaccinations continue, widespread access to reliable and affordable COVID-19 testing remains a critical tool in the fight against the spread of the virus,” Sibay said.

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