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Last week, Amazon announced that it was moving to an offer of one-day delivery of products bought by members of its Prime program, essentially cutting in half the time it takes to deliver items bought by people who spend $119 a year to be Prime members. The investment will cost it an expected $800 million.

The responses were varied and even a little vague.

After the Amazon announcement, Walmart responded in a tweet: “One-day free shipping...without a membership fee. Now THAT would be groundbreaking. Stay tuned.” Which suggests that it is crafting a competitive response.

The Wall Street Journal notes that both Walmart and Target offer “free two-day shipping on orders $35 and up, as well as an array of other delivery and pickup options … Walmart and Target have invested heavily in their supply chains to offer faster shipping options, but they have also emphasized ways for shoppers to pick up orders in stores to defray shipping costs. Sales have increased at both retailers thanks to investments in stores and digital capabilities.”

The Journal quotes a Target spokesman as saying that it “offers shoppers ‘numerous ways to shop same-day and receive their purchases within hours,”’ including options to pick up orders at stores, which don’t require a membership.”

CNN reports that the announcement “has sparked a tense back-and-forth between an Amazon executive and the leader of a major workers’ union.

“Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said speeding up deliveries could be dangerous for Amazon fulfillment center employees. Appelbaum said workers are already struggling to keep pace and handle 200 to 300 orders per hour during a single 12-hour shift.”

However, Amazon’s Dave Clark, senior vice president of worldwide operations, responded, “We appreciate his concern for our associates but his concern is misguided and self-serving.” And a company spokesman tells CNN that “workers do ‘not struggle to maintain’ their workloads, and their lives are not at stake. ‘We have a very safe work environment’.”
KC's View:
The fact that both Walmart and Target can more effectively offer click-and-collect in addition to delivery gives them a strong argument in this competition, though I suspect that Amazon’s new one-day promise will increase the pressure on everyone to be faster and better … which not everyone can afford to do in the same way that Amazon can.

I also think, though, that this will increase the visibility given to the times when Amazon does not live up to the promise … which can and does happen. It generally has been pretty good at under-promising and then over-delivering, but less so lately, I think … and with greater visibility given to bigger promises, it’ll more attention when it drops the ball.

Besides, there is a pretty good argument out there that same-day, not next-day, is where the battle really will be played out. If I’m Walmart, Target for anyone else, I start focusing on that battle, not the next-day interregnum.