- Walmart this week introduced a new app feature, improved delivery offerings and a new school supply product assortment to simplify shopping for the upcoming school year, according to a press release.
- Walmart expanded the back-to-school shopping experience to the Walmart app, letting parents view and shop for their child’s specific school-supply list while using a smartphone to locate the items in store aisles. Walmart also lets families have back-to-class items delivered directly to their homes from Walmart's Online Grocery Delivery service in dozens of markets.
- The discount chain said 25% of its school supply assortment is new this year. Trending products include glow-in-the-dark and colored glue, paper from certified sustainable sources, erasable pens, Rocketbook notebooks, emoji pencil cases and unicorn notebooks.
Walmart is using back-to-school season to highlight more app features to help people shop in stores, or to order products for delivery or pickup. The move strengthens Walmart's mobile efforts, which were set back when the company recently announced it would end its Scan & Go service. A 2017 report found that Walmart Pay was close to overtaking Apple Pay in usage for mobile payments in the U.S., according to researcher Crone Consulting.
The back-to-school push comes as the discount chain seeks to beat back the growing threat from Amazon. Walmart’s annual revenue of $500 billion is more than two times Amazon's $178 billion, but the e-commerce giant has expanded its brick-and-mortar presence with bookstores, cashierless Amazon Go grocery stores and last year's acquisition of Whole Foods Market.
Amazon is gearing up for its annual Prime Day shopping event on July 16, which includes landing pages dedicated to students preparing to return to school. The company last month announced new "back to school" and "off to college" online stores, including an option to let teens shop independently on the Amazon app with parents approving orders or setting spending limits. Amazon has a Prime Student loyalty program that's similar to its standard Prime offering, but is slightly less expensive and has fewer perks. Not to be outdone, eBay last month announced that it had doubled its price-matching program to more than 100,000 items.
Back-to-school season is one of the busiest shopping times of the year, and frequently indicates how strong holiday shopping will be in the following months. Last year, total spending for school and college combined grew more than 10% to about $83 billion, according to the National Retail Federation. An NRF survey of more than 7,000 consumers found that college families were planning to spend about $5.9 billion on dorm and apartment furnishings alone, per CNBC. As retail sales trend upward amid low unemployment and a growing economy, this year's back-to-school season should be a bonanza for mobile marketers looking to get in on the action.