Prices on Amazon.com Inc. are the lowest—on average 14% cheaper—compared with the same items in 15 product categories on 11 other leading retail websites, according to Profitero’s fifth annual Price Wars study.
Is Walmart cheaper than Amazon?
Walmart Inc. is a close second, with online prices on average 4% more expensive than the identical products on Amazon.com in the analyzed categories. The Home Depot Inc. (No. 4 in the 2021 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000) also offered competitive prices, on average within 6% of those on Amazon.com, the study finds.
Profitero’s new study “Price Wars: 2021 U.S. Edition” analyzed prices of more than 15,530 products across 15 categories from 12 leading online retailers, including Amazon (No. 1 in the Top 1000), Best Buy Co. Inc. (No. 5), Chewy.com (owned by PetSmart Inc., No. 14), CVS Caremark Corp. (No. 116), The Home Depot Inc., Macy’s Inc. (No. 13), Nordstrom Inc. (No. 20), Staples Inc. (No. 9), Target Corp. (No. 6), Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. (No. 28), Walmart (No. 2) and Wayfair Inc (No. 7). The study collected pricing data each day for identical, in-stock products, from July 12-Oct. 3, and averaged prices across that time period. Pricing data was collected without regard to membership in loyalty programs, and did not include marketplace products. Profitero is an ecommerce analytics vendor.
Walmart.com narrowed its gap from 2020, when on average its products were 5% more expensive than Amazon.com’s prices across the 15 analyzed categories.
However, the other big general merchandise retailer in the study, Target, fell further behind in terms of offering low prices. Target.com’s prices were 15% more expensive than Amazon.com on average in this year’s study, versus 13% more expensive last year, according to Profitero.
In some categories, Walmart and Target appear to be making a concerted effort to compete on price. For example, Walmart.com’s prices are only 1% higher than Amazon.com’s in three categories: home furniture, beauty, and food and beverage. Target.com’s most competitive category was baby products, where its products were only 6% higher than those on Amazon.
Lowest prices on Amazon
This is the fifth consecutive year Amazon has had the lowest prices, says Mike Black, chief marketing officer at Profitero. “Unlike more traditional retailers, Amazon isn’t as focused on its profit margins since it is able to generate a large amount of revenue from other services, such as advertising and Amazon Web Services,” Black says. Amazon Web Services is the world’s leading provider of cloud computing services by revenue, according to technology research firm Canalysis.
Low prices is one of the three things Amazon obsesses over—along with vast selection and fast delivery—as it knows that’s what customers care about, an Amazon spokeswoman says.
“Customers come to Amazon to find low prices and we put our energy into ensuring that’s true, not just throughout the holidays, but all year long,” the spokeswoman says.
Amazon holiday sales and prices
Amazon offers significantly lower prices on products that are commonly bought during the holiday period—electronics, toys and games, and video games:
- Toys and games: Walmart’s prices are 4% more expensive than Amazon, while Target’s are 8% more expensive than Amazon.
- Video games: Walmart is 13% more expensive than Amazon, Target 17% higher.
- Electronics: Walmart’s products are 9% more expensive than Amazon, Target’s 10% more, and Best Buy’s 15% more.
New research from the Adobe Inc.’s Digital Price Index finds that overall online prices were 1.9% higher in October than they were a year ago, but lower in some holiday-focused categories. For example, online prices for toys are down 2.7% year over year in October 2021 compared with October 2020, and electronics prices are down 0.6%, Adobe finds. Adobe uses the Fisher Price Index to track ecommerce prices, as well as its data based on 1 trillion visits to retail sites and over 100 million SKUs in 18 product categories.
Experts point to supply chain issues and inflation as the reason for higher online prices.
“Inflation and ongoing supply chain issues may end up making the 2021 holiday shopping season the most expensive in history,” Black says. “Even though consumers are flush with cash from the pandemic and stimulus checks, we expect them to shop around more than usual to find what’s in stock at the best price.”
Price is a critical factor to online holiday shoppers, according to a Digital Commerce 360/Bizrate Insights survey of 1,000 online shoppers in September 2021. 60% of consumers said competitive prices was the most important factor when choosing an online retailer for the holidays, the second most popular response behind free shipping, which was cited by 66% of consumers surveyed. Shoppers could pick more than one answer.
Chewy.com vs. Amazon
Chewy.com is the only retailer in the study that matched Amazon’s prices. Its products, all in the pet category, have maintained a 0% price difference with Amazon in 2019, 2020 and 2021, Profitero finds.
In fact, Amazon’s prices were only 5% lower on average than the same pet products offered by Chewy, Walmart, Target and Home Depot, taken together. The only other category where Amazon faced more price competition was in baby products, where Amazon was only 4% cheaper on average.
Amazon offers the lowest prices by far in the beauty category, with its products 26% lower compared with its competitors.
How to compete with Amazon
But retailers can take on Amazon in ways other than price. In fact, only 23% of retailers said offering lower prices was how they planned to compete with Amazon during the holiday season, according to a pre-holiday survey of 100 online retailers in September 2021 conducted by Digital Commerce 360. Online retailers said customer service, a personalized experience, a unique product selection and loyalty programs were how they planned to keep up with Amazon.
Target is a prime example of a retailer that’s not trying to compete with Amazon on price, but seeking to differentiate itself in other ways, Black says.
“Target isn’t following in Walmart’s footsteps and attempting to match Amazon. It’s quite the opposite.” he says. “Target is a great example of the power of offering a strong retail brand and great omnichannel experience that commands a premium value with consumers.”
Target says it is priced competitively. “We’re committed to offering our guests an incredible assortment at incredible value,” Target says.
Plus, its price match policy for the holiday season, which runs Oct. 10-Dec.24, allows shoppers to request a price adjustment for any Target purchases if the retailer prices it lower late in the season. It also matches select competitors’ pricing within 14 days of purchase, according to the Target website.
Walmart declined to comment on this article.