Walmart vs. Amazon: Which online retailer is better, and why

Walmart vs. Amazon: Which has better prices, shipping, and customer service?

Back in the 90s, going out and physically shopping at the mall was a regular activity. You’d go there to shop for clothes, see a movie, grab lunch at the food court, or to grab that new CD you wanted from Sam Goody or Tower Records. Have you been to a mall lately, though? It’s nothing like it was back then. Most malls today are like ghost towns, with gates in front of many of the stores and few patrons shopping on any given day.

These days, so many of us do our shopping online. We can buy just about anything without getting off the couch, and have it delivered right to the front door. Two of the main players in the online shopping arena are Amazon and Walmart. Both have marketplaces, quick shipping options, and a wide variety of items ranging from electronics to clothing to kitchen gadgets to sex toys.

Walmart may be behind Amazon in terms of online performance, but the big box store has been rapidly growing its online customer base. Between early 2017 and early 2019, Walmart has seen 207% growth in its eCommerce buyer base.

Which online retailer is better? Which has the better shipping, grocery, prices, product selection, marketplace offerings, return policies and customer service? Both have their good points and bad, but we’re comparing the two side-by-side to find out which online retailer reigns supreme. Let the online shopping showdown begin!


amazon free shipping minimum mem 3

Consumer Intelligence Research Partners estimate that more than 100 million people in the U.S. subscribe to Amazon Prime, so most people are familiar with Amazon’s subscription service that gives you a ton of features like video content, music, books, and more for a monthly ($13) or annual fee ($119). Prime also affords subscribers free two-day shipping on eligible items, and people who live in eligible zip codes can get free one-day shipping, or even free same-day shipping.

Walmart offers a few different free shipping options, however, and you don’t have to pay any subscription fee at all. In select cities, the retailer offers free next-day shipping on qualifying orders over $35. Even if next-day shipping isn’t available in your area, you can get two-day shipping on orders over $35 regardless to where you live. Marketplace items, and certain other items are separate, and don’t count in the $35 total. For non-marketplace items that aren’t marked “free 2-day shipping,” you can usually get free 3-5 day shipping. For marketplace items, you may have to pay a separate fee for shipping though.

Winner: Walmart 

Grocery and Food

caleb harper personal food computer grocery store tomatoes
FG Trade/Getty Images

Amazon offers a few different food services including Prime Now, Amazon Fresh, and Prime Pantry. Prime Now delivers groceries, household items, and restaurant foods to Prime members in select cities. Amazon Fresh is an extra subscription ($14.99/month in addition to Prime) that lets you have groceries delivered to you. The two services — Amazon Fresh and Prime Now — are set to be merging. Prime Pantry is another separate paid service where you fill up a box with food items and have them shipped to your home. Most of Amazon’s food options have an added cost outside of your regular Prime membership, whether that cost be extra shipping costs or delivery fees, extra subscription fees, both a subscription cost and a delivery or shipping fee, or the option to choose between an extra subscription fee or an extra shipping cost each time you use the service.

Walmart, on the other hand, offers a grocery pickup service that’s entirely free. There are no subscription costs whatsoever. They also offer a delivery service for a small fee (usually under $10 per delivery, regardless of the amount of groceries you order). Like Amazon, Walmart’s delivery service is only available in select cities. Walmart customers can also order a wide variety of food and household items on the Walmart website and receive free 2-day delivery provided their order exceeds $35. Walmart’s digital food sales grew 53% year over year, compared to just 8% at Amazon, according to eMarketer.

Winner: Walmart


internet purchase exchange location news handing money to transaction

In 2018, LendEDU conducted an analysis where they compared 50 identical products across a variety different categories — home goods, technology and entertainment, food and beverage, kitchen and appliances, and others. They found that Amazon was 10.37% more expensive than Walmart if a customer was to purchase the identical items from both retailers.

Amazon offers discounts and incentives, like coupons, and a variety of discounts for Prime members. However, Walmart has a slight edge over Amazon, providing a variety of rollback discounts, clearance items, incentives for customers for picking up their items in-store, as well as free shipping without a subscription fee.

Winner: Walmart

Product Selection

Google Home Walmart

Walmart has a huge selection of items, and the selection has only widened with the addition of the online marketplace. The online retailer is no longer the budget buffet of items it once was. You can order items from brands like Nike or even Gucci, as well as the latest tech gadgets or fashion. According to Marketplace Pulse, Walmart online has roughly 43 million products as of late 2018.

While Walmart has a wide selection, Amazon has just about everything your heart could desire — virtually every size, color, shape, and brand.

Winner: Amazon


walmart preps 50 a year shipping service to take on amazon prime

Walmart’s online marketplace is still in its infancy. Although launched almost two decades ago, it wasn’t until the company acquired a few short years ago that it became a real contender in the online shopping arena.

Amazon’s third-party marketplace, however, is extremely well-established, and Amazon reports that 50% of its sales come from its third-party selection.

Winner: Amazon

Return policies

Walmart typically allows customers to return items in the store or by mail within 90-days of purchase. Certain items, like electronics, have a smaller return window (15 to 30 days depending on the item). If you buy an item from a Walmart marketplace seller, things get a bit tricky though. The seller can set their own return policy, as long as it meets Walmart’s minimum standards (i.e. the seller is allowed to charge a maximum restocking fee of 20%, and a return shipping fee).

Amazon and most of the sellers on Amazon allow you return items within 30 days of shipment. Because Amazon has so many Marketplace sellers, most of them adhere to Amazon’s return policies. If not, Amazon third-party sellers must provide a return address within the United States, provide a prepaid return label, or offer a full refund without requesting the item be returned so the customer is not left paying a huge shipping bill. Amazon also has an A-to-Z guarantee to protect customers from unfair return policies. Amazon even has “try before you buy” services like Prime Wardrobe, so you can find out if a clothing item is the right fit and style before you decide to keep it.

Winner: Amazon

Overall Winner: Amazon

what is prime pantry amazon day packages 3

Being a Walmart online customer means getting low prices, not having to pay any subscription fees, and getting free and fast shipping on most orders. Walmart online customers can also order pickup items for a better deal, and often pick their items up the same day. For groceries, Walmart’s delivery service is one of the most cost-effective options available. However, Walmart is known for earning less than stellar customer service scores, receiving some of the lowest marks among internet retailers in ACSI (American Consumer Satisfaction Index) reports.

Amazon offers a lot of value to customers too, and some of that value is more qualitative than quantitative. The customer service is excellent, with 95% of respondents reporting they were “very satisfied” or “rather satisfied” with Amazon customer service in a Statista survey. Amazon also consistently receives high marks in ACSI reports. And while Amazon charges for its Prime subscription, members get a ton of extra perks in addition to free shipping. From music to shows to books, Amazon continues to add more to Prime, while also making customers feels valued. So, Amazon is the better online retailer, but not by a landslide as you may have thought. Walmart is catching up, and we will continue to update this article as more information becomes available.

Emerging Tech

Walmart using A.I.-powered cameras to spot dodgy shoppers at self-checkouts

Walmart is using computer vision technology at some of its stores in an effort to spot sneaky behavior at its self-checkout counters. The A.I.-powered cameras automatically identify any dodgy activity and then alert staff.

Amazon Prime Day 2019: Official start date and the best deals so far

Amazon Prime Day 2019 is going to be on July 15 and July 16. We've been taking a look at the best discounts from previous Prime Days to give you our predictions of what this massive 2-day event will entail.
Home Theater

Best Prime Day headphone deals: What we expect from Amazon in 2019

Solitude doesn't come cheap, but Amazon has something up its sleeve that will make it a tad more affordable: Prime Day. That's right — the retailer's discounting top-rated headphones for its online shopping bonanza.

Walmart wants to save billions while integrating autonomy into its supply chain

Walmart teamed up with California-based Gatik to integrate self-driving technology into its supply chain. The retailer wants autonomous trucks and vans to transport goods to and from warehouses across the nation.

Best cheap air conditioner deals for 2019: Frigidaire, LG, and more

Spring is in full swing and summer is on the way, and now is the time time to shop for some deals on air conditioning units. We rounded up a selection of the best deals on cheap air conditioners and dehumidifiers going right now.

Walmart drops prices on Google Home smart speakers ahead of Prime Day 2019

Smart speakers are the future of home automation. If you’re thinking about getting one, now's a great time as Walmart is offering Google Home on sale. Normally $129, it is now available for only $99.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Illuminated keyboards and a retro gaming console

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Smart Home

Google fixes Nest camera bug that allowed old owners to still see through them

The previous owner of a Nest Cam Indoor discovered that he was still able to access images from the device, even after a factory reset. Google has said that it has fixed the problem.

The best 4th of July sales 2019: Best Buy, Home Depot, and REI

Whether you're looking for price cuts on mattresses, major appliances, kitchen gadgets, outdoor gear, and just about anything you can think of for summer, there's bound to be a sale with your name on it.

iRealm’s Smart Plug 2.0 with built-in touchpad makes its Kickstarter debut

The iRealm Smart Plug 2.0 debuted on Kickstarter this week. The device aims to solve the problem of smartphone-only control in connected devices by including a touchpad for local control.

Amazon slashes 43% off of this air purifier to help you breathe clean air

Achieve a healthy indoor air quality for your home with the GermGuardian Full Room Air Purifier. Its 3-in-1 air cleaning system is powerful enough to eliminate pollutants lurking in the air. Get yours on Amazon for only $85.
Smart Home

GE-backed startup brings crystal-clear ice to fans of bourbon and other spirits

Spherical, crystal-clear ice to water down drinks used to be the purview of innovative bartenders, but a startup called FirstBuild, backed by GE Appliances, has a new device that will produce it in mere hours.
Smart Home

Amazon Echo vs. Dot: Which smart speaker is best for you?

Having Alexa answer your questions is nothing short of futuristic, but which device should you get, Amazon's Echo or Echo Dot? There are some big differences between the two, especially in size, sound, and cost.
Smart Home

Tankless water heaters vs. those with tanks: When to say no to tankless

Tanks versus tankless water heaters: Which kind is better? While some people think tankless is the better choice, that's not always the case. Here, we lay out the pros and cons for each.