To catch up, Wal-Mart moves to Amazon turf

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SummaryA plucky Silicon Valley company, forced to compete for talented engineers, is trying it all.

for 2013. While Wal-Mart’s total revenue is close to $500 billion, it has said it expects just a fraction of that, $10 billion, in e-commerce revenue for the year ending January 2014.

Walmart.com had 62.5 million unique visitors in August, compared with Amazon’s 133 million, according to Compete, which tracks web use.

“Amazon is the Wal-Mart of the post-2000 period,” said Matt Nemer, an analyst at Wells Fargo.

Wal-Mart was slow to embrace online shopping, keeping its web operations separate and haltingly adopting new technology. These days, though, it is trying to turn its 4,100 stores in the US and many of its 6,200 stores overseas into e-commerce assets.

Two-thirds of the US population is within five miles of a Walmart, according to the company, and more than 10% of items ordered online are shipped from stores. Countries in which it has a physical presence for e-commerce include Brazil, China and Britain.

It is also allowing customers to pick up online orders in stores or, in a test in Washington, in lockers. It is trying same-day delivery in five markets, and grocery delivery in the Bay Area and Denver.

Executives say Walmart wants to become almost as fast as Amazon, but for people who can’t afford the $79 fee of Amazon’s Prime service, with its free two-day shipping.

Amazon has been building warehouses throughout the US as it tries to expedite its shipping and conquer online grocery delivery. It has had lockers at stores like 7-Eleven for about a year, though in September, RadioShack and Staples stopped participating in the programme. Abroad, Amazon has moved even faster with services like same-day delivery and groceries.

Following Amazon, Walmart has revamped its online and mobile technology. It has software to watch social media like Pinterest for popular products and to monitor online prices and lower them accordingly or alert merchants.

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