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What the Walmart-Jet.com Merger Means for Online Shoppers

Everyone's going bananas over the news, but does the merger represent a real challenge to Amazon?
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Walmart and jet

By now, you've probably heard of Jet.com — an online e-tailer that pushes bulk shopping for maximum savings. The retail industry is abuzz since yesterday's announcement that Walmart, which has had depressingly slow online growth in recent years, is buying up Jet for $3.3 billion. The merger has everyone speculating about what this might mean for Amazon.

In other words, could Walmart.com now be in a position to snatch up Amazon customers? And, if so, does this translate to legitimate savings for the average shopper? The answer is a bit of a mixed bag.

What Is Jet.com?

When Jet launched last summer, its unique pricing model made some waves. The bulk-buying idea here is that the more you add to your cart, the more you save. ("Prices drop as you shop," touts the website.) They've since eliminated their initial $50 membership fee and currently offer up free shipping on orders of $35 or more. Plus, they throw in perks like JetCash, as well as free returns within 30 days. Customers can sometimes find free two-day shipping on certain items, too.

Additionally, shoppers can also take advantage of other unique saving opportunities — like discounted prices if you opt to pay with debit versus credit, or if you choose to give up the ability to return items later on.

How Will This Change Walmart.com?

For now, Walmart.com and Jet.com will remain two separate sites. The acquisition, it seems, will impact mostly behind-the-scenes stuff. Since Jet has a sleek design and a solid grip on millennial shoppers, CNN reports that Walmart will maintain the Jet brand, while leveraging their own technology and distribution to help bundle items and curb in-house costs. The relationship will be a mutually beneficial one; Jet's forward-thinking approach is expected to reinvigorate Walmart.com. For now, we'll have to wait and see exactly how these changes play out long term.

Is This an Actual Threat to Amazon?

The short answer is, most likely not. Wired predicts that the uphill battle for anyone (Walmart, Jet or otherwise) to overthrow Amazon is real. So what these guys are really vying for is to "pick up Amazon's scraps." The Walmart-Jet merger might do just that — at least in certain categories, such as groceries and household items. Amazon has Prime Pantry and Amazon Fresh, but the latter comes with a hefty subscription fee of $299 a year. A cheaper option could definitely sway some people to switch over from Amazon.

News of the deal comes at a time when Walmart.com is fighting to stand on its own as a go-to online retailer. The company only recently announced expansions to their ShippingPass program. You can now try the subscription service free for 30 days, plus get free shipping on all orders. After that free trial, the $49 annual fee might look attractive to Amazon Prime members, who shell out twice that much. But it's worth mentioning that Prime membership comes with tons of additional benefits, like access to Prime Video, Prime Music, Amazon Family and more.

Only time will tell if the Walmart-Jet arrangement translates to solid deals for shoppers. Until then, Amazon remains the dominant force to be reckoned with.


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About the Author
Marianne Hayes Contributor

Marianne Hayes is a freelance writer, wife and mother in Tampa Bay. After earning a degree in journalism and creative writing from the University of Central Florida, she spent nearly a decade getting lost in New York City and Los Angeles before making her way back home again in 2014. Marianne's writing has appeared in a variety of publications including The Huffington Post, Forbes.com, LearnVest, The Daily Beast and more. When she's not writing, Marianne is usually cruising her local bookstore with her two daughters.

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