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Clash of the Titans: Amazon vs. Walmart Customer Loyalty

By March 21, 2022 July 20th, 2022 CCG Retail Marketing Blog

The 2022 customer.com Retail Customer Brand Loyalty Study shows differences and similarities between Walmart and Amazon when it comes to customer loyalty.

Article Highlights

  • Walmart slightly edges out Amazon in terms of total sales, but it’s a close race.
  • For years, Amazon and Walmart have battled it out for the title of retailer I’m most likely to shop, with Walmart currently on top.
  • When it comes to shopping personalities, Amazon has a greater share of Roamers, while Walmart leads for Neutrals and Loyalists.
  • Loyal customers of both brands rank good value for the money as the number one factor determining their loyalty, but other top loyalty drivers differ between the two.

Ask most retailers who are some of their biggest competitors, and if they are being honest, they will name Amazon or Walmart — or both. These retail titans have amassed a huge amount of loyalty among consumers in the United States, according to the latest data from customer.com’s groundbreaking 2022 Retail Brand Customer Loyalty Study. Here, we break out some specific brand loyalty statistics from the study to compare Walmart to Amazon retail customer loyalty — and evaluate which of these giants is winning the loyalty war.

Amazon vs Walmart

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Who is number 1 — Walmart or Amazon?

Before we get into specifics from the study, let’s get some perspective on just how big these titans are. In terms of sales, Walmart is number one, but only by a bit. As of October 2021, the retailer reported 10,566 stores worldwide, with more than half of them located in the United States. Walmart’s U.S. operations accounted for $369.9 billion in net sales.

Amazon, on the other hand, operates as a retailer in 21 countries, with the U.S. remaining its largest market, with $314 billion dollars in sales in 2021. However, Amazon is the leading e-retailer in the U.S., accounting for more than 40% of U.S. online revenue in 2021, according to early Digital Commerce 360 estimates.1

Both retailers have expansion strategies that include delving more deeply into each other’s native channels. In the fall of 2021, Amazon announced plans to open large physical stores in the U.S. that would operate in a department store format. This is in addition to the physical retail locations they operate through their Whole Foods acquisition.

Not to be outdone, Walmart has been greatly upping its ecommerce game and is growing more than five times faster in this space than Amazon. If Walmart maintains this pace, they’ll overtake Amazon in four years. And, according to PYMTS.com, Walmart has pledged to invest $14 billion into new technology and automation as it strives to grow its online business.2

Do Amazon and Walmart have brand loyalty?

Clearly, there are Amazon and Walmart similarities, and the two are worthy competitors. But how do they stack up in terms of brand loyalty?

Based on our Retail Customer Brand Loyalty Study, Amazon and Walmart have battled it out over the years to be named the retailer I am most likely to shop for particular needs by our respondents. In 2019, Walmart overtook Amazon for the top spot. Since then, the retailer has increased its lead over the ecommerce giant, with 10% more respondents naming Walmart as the retailer to which they are most loyal in 2022 over 2021.

Walmart vs. Amazon: Customer Profiles

We can explore the rivalry further through the lens of the three customer profiles, or shopping personalities, identified in our study:

  • Loyalists, who ­find a go-to retailer for their needs and are likely to stick with them.
  • Neutrals, who tend to have some go-to retailers for particular purchases but also like to shop around depending on the situation.
  • Roamers, who tend to always shop around first before making a purchase.

It’s important to note that a retailer can have very loyal customers from all three shopping personality groups. A Roamer, for instance, may indicate that they tend to shop a certain retailer for particular needs, but may still want to shop around before making that purchase. It’s crucial for retailers who attract a large number of Roamers to understand this shopping style and its respective impact on the customer journey.

Our 2022 study found that Amazon attracts a higher percentage of Roamers, at 36%, than does Walmart, at 33%. (Of note: Both retailers saw drops in the number of Roamers from 2021, when the shares were 39% and 37% respectively. But we also saw the overall percentage of Roamers for all retailers peak in 2021, likely the result of the pandemic.)

This shows that even though respondents indicated a high amount of loyalty to Amazon, they still like to shop around first. It might be tempting to disparage a retailer for the percentage of Roamers they attract. But remember that Amazon is making loyal customers out of those consumers whose style it is to shop around — no easy task! And, given Amazon’s format of representing thousands of sellers, shoppers may be satisfying this need … without straying from the Amazon realm.

On the other hand, we found that Walmart attracted a greater percentage of Loyalists and Neutrals than Amazon. Remember, Loyalists are consumers who like to find a go-to retailer and stick with them. At 37%, Walmart’s percentage of Loyalists remained the same from 2021 to 2022, while their share of Neutrals increased from 26% to 30% during that time.

Amazon vs Walmart: Shopping Personalities

Amazon vs. Walmart and Passion vs. Practicality

One of the most surprising findings of our Retail Customer Brand Loyalty Study is the difference in which factors matter most to Loyalists versus Roamers. For instance, Loyalists are most defined by factors represented by the multi-faceted Passion Dynamic.

Passion Dynamic

Roamers tended to be more dispassionate, more practical and more driven by the tangible aspects of the shopping experience itself. Therefore, they are most defined by factors represented by the Practicality Dynamic.

Practicality Dynamic

How does this play out in the Amazon vs. Walmart customer loyalty battle? In general, loyal customers of both retailers lean toward practical factors. Not surprisingly, more and more loyal Amazon customers have been listing convenience as a factor important to their loyalty. Prior to the onset of COVID-19, convenience was the fifth most selected factor by Amazon customers. In 2021 and 2022, it steadily moved up and is now the third most selected factor behind good value and easy to make purchases.

For loyal Walmart customers, convenience was the fourth most selected factor this year, behind good value for the money, lowest price and easy to make purchases, respectively. One might hypothesize that loyal Walmart customers are willing to sacrifice a bit of convenience for lower prices.

However, when asked to rank their most important loyalty factors, customers of both brands were most likely to rank good value for the money as the number one factor determining their loyalty.

The final question in our annual Retail Brand Customer Loyalty Study asked respondents which factors would be most important for driving loyalty if access, price and products were identical. Overall, respondents were more concerned about receiving incentives to shop and having a convenient shopping experience while being less concerned about the passion factors of trust and the ease of making returns this year versus last year.

Customers loyal to Walmart mirrored these sentiments, but also indicated that the factor of caring staff was less important this year than last year. Compared to the retail norm, Walmart customers were more likely to cite ease of making purchases and returns, as well as a convenient shopping experience, as important factors when choosing between two retailers if price, product and access were identical.

Similarly, customers loyal to Amazon also tended to mirror many of the factors cited by all respondents. However, these customers increasingly cited convenient shopping experience. It jumped 10% this year versus last year as the factor that would help the customers choose between two retailers. Interestingly, ease of making returns decreased by 15% this year versus last year among loyal Amazon customers.

Amazon vs. Walmart: Loyalty Factors

Click to enlarge

We also found that Walmart matches Amazon in having their most loyal customers distributed throughout the country. However, Walmart’s most loyal customers are a bit more likely to come from the South, whereas Amazon’s most loyal customers are more likely to come from the West.

Amazon vs. Walmart Customer Loyalty: The Battle Rages On

As the battle royal continues to heat up between these two mega-retailers, each will no doubt rely on the innate strengths coming from their native channels of bricks-and-mortar and ecommerce. However, as they both forge ahead into the other’s “natural habitat” it will be important that they understand and act upon the factors driving the loyalty of their respective customer bases.

To be successful, other retailers should take note of those factors, as well. In any case, it will be interesting to continue to watch Walmart vs. Amazon in the coming years. I, for one, will be popping the popcorn!

Even if your retail organization isn’t the size of Amazon or Walmart, you can build robust (and profitable) customer loyalty. CCG can help. Our retail marketing experts have more than 40 years of experience assisting retailers with their customer loyalty initiatives. Contact us to learn about our services and solutions and to see what we can do for you. Call us at 303.986.3000 or click below to schedule a free consultation.

Sources

1 “U.S. Ecommerce Grows 14.2% in 2021,” Jessica Young, Digital Commerce 360, posted Feb. 18, 2022, https://www.digitalcommerce360.com/article/us-ecommerce-sales/, accessed March 1, 2022

2 “Amazon and Walmart Are Nearly Tied in Full-Year Share of Retail Sales,” PYMNTS.com, posted March 11, 2021, https://www.pymnts.com/news/retail/2021/amazon-walmart-nearly-tied-in-full-year-share-of-retail-sales/, accessed March 1, 2022

“Walmart,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walmart#Numbers_of_stores_by_state, accessed March 1, 2022

“Annual Net Sales of Amazon in Selected Leading Markets from 2014 to 2021,” Daniela Coppola, Statista, published Feb. 14, 2022, https://www.statista.com/statistics/672782/net-sales-of-amazon-leading-markets/, accessed March 1, 2022

“Net Sales Share of Walmart U.S. in the United States in Fiscal Year 2021, by Merchandise Category,” Statista, posted Jan. 27, 2022, https://www.statista.com/statistics/252678/walmarts-net-sales-in-the-us-by-merchandise-unit/, accessed March 1, 2022

“Walmart Is Gaining on Amazon in E-Commerce,” Richard Kestenbaum, Forbes, posted Oct. 20, 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/richardkestenbaum/2021/10/20/walmart-is-gaining-on-amazon-in-e-commerce/?sh=2120ae50653c, accessed March 1, 2022

“Amazon Plans to Open Large Retail Locations Akin to Department Stores,” Sebastian Herrara, Esther Fung, Suzanne Kapner, The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 19, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/amazon-retail-department-stores-11629330842, accessed March 1, 2022

Sandra Gudat

Author Sandra Gudat

Sandra Gudat is CCG’s president & CEO. Considered a pioneer in the field of customer marketing, she has a diverse background in consulting, database marketing, advertising, retail and business management. She is a frequent speaker on customer loyalty marketing and developing customer-centric policies

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