Before long, paying for shipping when you order something online will be unthinkable.
During the holiday shopping season, nearly all retailers waive shipping charges for purchases over a certain amount. Amazon.com's Prime account, which costs $99 per year, provides free two-day shipping all year round.
Walmart, which countered Prime with its own two-day shipping program for half the cost, has now upped the ante, saying it will provide free two-day shipping on more than two million items with no membership fee.
If the item you purchase is not among the two million covered by the new program, Walmart says it will provide free shipping if the order totals $35, down from $50. Items shipped for pick-up at stores have no price threshold.
Fighting back against Amazon
As Amazon has continued to dominate the online retail space, Walmart has fought hard to maintain its position as the nation's largest retailer. In August it acquired Jet.com, another online retailer, to shore up it's ecommerce offerings.
Jet.com was co-founded by Marc Lore, who sold his previous company – Diapers.com – to Amazon in 2010. Jet.com officially launched in 2015, promising consumers lower prices in exchange for longer delivery times.
Lore is now president and CEO of Walmart U.S. eCommerce, and he says the new free two-day shipping program gives Walmart a powerful weapon.
“Two-day free shipping is the first of many moves we will be making to enhance the customer experience and accelerate growth,” he said.
The free two-day shipping will cover items like household products, including diapers, pet products, and food. It will also cover cleaning supplies, grooming products, and top-selling toys and electronics.
Walmart said some consumers who had signed up and paid the $49 for the Shipping Pass service would get refunds.
For consumers, it may be the clearest signal yet that the day is fast approaching when they will never be asked to pay for shipping. At least, that's where Lore thinks things are going.
“In today's world of e-commerce, two-day free shipping is table stakes," he said on a conference call with analysts and reporters. "It no longer makes sense to charge for it.”