Walmart is continuing to ramp up its arsenal against Amazon.
The most recent advance in this ongoing contest is Walmart’s partnership with Kobo. By partnering with Rakuten, and it’s e-reader brand Kobo, Walmart has launched its own online bookstore.
The Little Shop Around the Corner
In 1998, just as the internet was exploding, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan stared in a cute remake of “Little Shop Around the Corner.” Titled “You’ve Got Mail” this took the basic premise of the 1940 film and reworked for a more contemporary setting. This time, instead of pen-pals, Hanks and Ryan were the instant messaging each other. Trust me, instant messaging was a big thing back in the day.
And the alert was the pre-recorded “You’ve Got Mail.”
Hence, the title of the movie.
In the original “Little Shop Around the Corner,” the setting was a gift shop.
For the 1998 version, Hanks is the corporate executive who’s in charge of development for a behemoth book chain store. Kind of like Amazon is today.
Ryan is the owner of a small-time bookshop that’s a neighborhood institution.
Ryan’s “Little Shop Around the Corner” can’t compete with Hanks “Fox Books.” And she knows it.
When the newest location opens down the street from her store, the days of “Little Shop Around the Corner” are numbered. Though she attempts to fight it, Ryan’s little bookshop goes out of business.
Let’s reimagine the story this way.
Hanks, and by extension Fox Books, is Amazon. They’re established, they’ve run out the little stores, and things are going well. Fox Books, AKA Amazon, accounts for about 80% of all digital eBook readers and eReading apps.
Ryan steps onto the scene.
But not with a Little Shop Around the Corner.
This time she’s Walmart.
She may be entering a tough field, but she’s no newbie.
And here’s why.
Walmart is a Retail Giant
Walmart has over 5,000 our-offers nationwide.
These brick and mortar stores have been promising “always low prices” and discounts for decades. Walk into any Walmart and you’ll find clothes, food, automotive products, and much, much more.
Where they’re lacking is the digital sphere.
They do have online ordering, but it’s a far cry from Amazon’s presence.
Amazon, however, got its start with books. And books are still a major part of Amazon’s annual revenue. They have eReader apps and the Kindle.
They’ve built up a digital empire, and even their books and eReading platforms are an empire in and of themselves.
It makes sense for Walmart to go after the book market. While Amazon does have a strong presence there, they haven’t been working to develop and adapt.
Large and Dedicated Client Base
The reason Walmart is a retail giant is thanks to its large and dedicated client base.
On the book front, part of the reason Walmart may be losing customers is that they don’t have viable options for them. Now, by partnering with Rakuten and selling Kobo products in the store, they will.
As easy as it is for someone to buy something off Amazon, buying it in a store has a much stronger appeal. Getting to hold and test out a product is an advantage. Those who test out a product are more likely to buy it. They get a chance to see themselves using it, thus, they can see themselves owning it. This is a similar phenomenon with books and telling stories, but we’ll get to that later.
For Walmart to sell the Kobo Aura in its stores, it’ll be a huge plus for them.
Not to mention Walmart is also rolling out an audiobook service. While Amazon already has Audible, Walmart is going to make theirs more affordable. And Walmart’s biggest draw has always been its prices.
For a monthly Audible subscription, it’s $14.99.
Walmart’s will be only $9.99 per month.
Those shoppers who are always looking for a cheaper price, they’ll eagerly switch from Audible to Walmart eBooks.
A Physical Means to Buy Digital Products
With Kobo Aura’s on sale in the store, Walmart is making it easier for their customers to get their hands on it. Sure, you can order it online and have it sent to you. But you’re gambling that way. Reviews of a product can only provide so much insight.
Walmart will also “sell” digital books in its stores as well.
This is accomplished by provided cards.
Like a gift card, customers can pick up a card that will allow them to buy the digital book they want. Maybe it’s Ernest Cline’s “Ready Player One”, or Gillian Flynn’s “Sharp Objects”. The customer will take the card to the register and pay for it there. Then they’ll activate the book by inputting the code found on the card.
Personally, I’d like that experience. I know it sounds weird, but something about picking up a book and thumbing through it is so appealing to me. Then again, I love reading.
Thus, a card that acts as a placeholder for the book is intriguing to me. It won’t take the place of a book. It will, however, fell more involved than just clicking “buy now” online.
Would It Have Been Different?
“You’ve Got Mail” was one of a series of romantic comedies that starred Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. The two had chemistry on screen and worked well together. They didn’t get together in real life, but that’s okay. Tom Hanks has Rita Wilson and they’re perfect for each other.
Don’t know what’s going on with Meg Ryan though.
Anyway, had Meg Ryan’s character gotten the help of Walmart to take on Fox Books, the movie would have had a completely different ending.
For one, Ryan’s “Little Shop Around the Corner” wouldn’t have been shuttered. She would have had a large inventory to work from. Her little bookshop would have been put into a much bigger network and supply chain. Fox Books would have had a harder time forcing her out.
For another, Fox Books was really more like Barnes and Noble. And while they had their heyday, shutting down the poor independent bookstores, they’re now dealing with the consequences of not establishing an online presence.
They’re fighting Amazon as well.
Lastly, had Ryan had the support of a Walmart, then the story wouldn’t have ended with Hanks and Ryan falling in love. They would have fought bitterly for dominance in their region. Marketing teams would have been called in.
At one point in the movie, Ryan is advised to “go to the mattresses.”
With an army of marketers behind her, she would have gone a much better job this time. The Little Shop Around the Corner would have gone toe-to-toe with Fox Books, and most likely won.
It wouldn’t have been a very romantic movie.
Find a Book
Romances, mysteries, action, now you can find a book you like through Walmart.
To download the title onto your favorite eReader or eBook app, make sure you’ve got the best Spectrum internet deals. This way you’ll save more money. And with all that money you’ve saved, you can go out and buy more books.
And really, that’s what’s most important here.