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Walmart’s latest experiment: Higher prices online than in stores

Walmart’s latest experiment: Higher prices online than in stores
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Theo Thimou |
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Walmart is trying out a new pricing strategy that could penalize you if you’re an online-only shopper of

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Walmart’s new online vs. in-store pricing experiment

According to the Wall Street Journal, Walmart has a new price experiment underway that you need to know about.

Here’s the deal: Because it’s unprofitable for Walmart to ship certain small items, they’re testing out surcharges on select merchandise to boost margins.

The difference in price is plain for any online shopper to see.

Walmart Irish Spring soap

In the example above, you can see that it costs nearly a dollar more to get this item shipped to you versus if you were to toss it into your cart and checkout at your local Walmart Supercenter.

The practice of charging more for items online than in store isn’t new in retail. Even Costco Wholesale has been known to do it, according to the Wall Street Journal report.

But Walmart has always had a focus on low price and long kept online and in-store prices equal for many best-selling items. So this experiment is a real departure from the past. It signals a new openness to segmenting price in a way we haven’t seen before from the mega-retailer.

“We always work to offer the best price online relative to other sites,” a Walmart spokeswoman told the Journal. “It simply costs less to sell some items in stores. Customers can access those store prices online when they choose to pick up the item in store.”

Why is Walmart doing this and why now?

Simply put, the nation’s largest retailer wants to drum up more business at a time when its store base is contracting.

One way for Walmart to keep growing is to draw more customer foot traffic. The reality is they’re barely planning to expand their 4,700-store real estate portfolio in 2018. In fact, only two dozen new stores are planned for the next fiscal year.

And this is at a time when nearly 300 stores were closed last year, following the shuttering of another 150 locations in 2015.

So, if Walmart is not going out to customers with more locations, they need to find a way to bring those customers to them.

Using price as a lever to get shoppers who are on the fence about online vs. in-store to come in and pick up a few impulse purchases as they roam the aisles could be to their benefit.

Here are a few other instances of this new dual pricing strategy:

Snap into a Slim Jim

Just remember to slide into a store before you do — unless you want the price to take a bigger bite out of your wallet!

Walmart Slim Jim pricing

Brush twice a day and floss

But beware of this online-only price hike!

Walmart Colgate toothbrush pricing

Never let them see you sweat

…the online price, that is!

Walmart deodorant pricing

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Walmart offering free grocery pickup service

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