In the world of ecommerce and technology, multinational retail chain Walmart continues to innovate in order to capture consumer mindshare. This past week, the retailer announced its plans to release its own Android tablet. Walmart is nesting its new product under its ONN store brand and hopes the tablet will compete on a lower price and a more kid-friendly design. According to Walmart’s application with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, a Chinese supplier will be partnering with Walmart in this venture. Apple debuted its iPad in 2010, and Amazon quickly followed with its Fire tablet in 2011. While Walmart boasts other tablet models on its shelves and could easily have utilized the technology to do this sooner, it is intriguing why Walmart is now finally deciding to take a piece of the tablet pie nine years later.
While it seems like Walmart is often playing catch-up with Amazon, the move to build and sell its own branded tablet further affirms that Walmart is a force to be reckoned with. In the ecommerce and technology landscape that Amazon dominates, consumers should not overlook Walmart’s ability to establish itself on par with Amazon. Over the past several years, Walmart has dedicated significant resources in its ecommerce efforts to mitigate Amazon’s influence. On the mergers and acquisitions front, Walmart has made crucial strides. In 2016, Walmart acquired Jet.com for more than $3 billion. Now, Jet.com is offering three-hour, same-day scheduled grocery delivery in New York. Furthermore, in 2018, Walmart made a string of acquisitions in order to boost its ecommerce presence. From Bare Necessities (an online retailer of lingerie, swimwear, and intimates) to Flipkart (an Indian e-commerce company), Walmart is signaling that it is ready to position itself next to Amazon and to compete side-by-side.
The rise of Amazon has undoubtedly influenced many retailers’ key strategic decisions. Walmart, whose strategy has always been to target price-conscious consumers, has enlarged its portfolio of companies that sell products in higher price ranges in order to capture Amazon’s market share of these consumers. However, this move to build a cheaper tablet may be Walmart’s effort to remind its price-conscious consumers that Walmart is here to stay in their lives. By building a cheaper tablet, these price-conscious consumers can be a part of the tablet ecosystem that they couldn’t otherwise be in because of the higher-priced iPad and Fire tablets. As a result, Walmart is able to interface in a new way with these consumers through its tablet, influence purchases by curating the tablet home page, and empower these consumers to adopt new technologies. By tapping into its original strategy to target price-conscious consumers, Walmart could continue to have more opportunities to rally with Amazon side-by-side.