History has many great brand rivalries: Coca-Cola vs. Pepsi, McDonald's vs. Burger King, Marvel vs. DC Comics, Ford vs. GM, and the list goes on. On the online retail front, there's a fierce showdown emerging and evolving: Amazon vs. Walmart. But does Walmart even merit a seat at the competitive table?

An almost unfair lead

It's hard to think that anyone could catch up to Amazon, let alone dethrone them, but Walmart sure wants to.

In 2017, Walmart's U.S. e-commerce sales reached $11.5 billion (which was up a staggering 44% from 2016, mind you) and contributed to about 3% of total U.S. e-commerce sales. Not bad, right? Well, Amazon contributed about 44% of total U.S. e-commerce sales--pulling in $199 billion. Woah. 

We're living amidst the retail apocalypse where brick-and-mortar stores that most of us grew up with continue to shut their doors--e-commerce growth and evolution being the likeliest of suspects. That said, it's easy for everyone to want to point the finger at Amazon due to their continued growth. However, where Walmart is one of the few retailers to remain strong, they have been blamed for the demise of other stores, as well.

Many retailers are adapting to survive, and Walmart is no exception. They've ventured into e-commerce by acquiring ModCloth, Bonobos, Moosejaw, Jet.com, and other reputable brands. But can they compete with the world's biggest online seller? So, revenue aside, let's take a deeper dive on comparable metrics between Amazon & Walmart. Market intelligence leader SimilarWeb dug deeper on the data. Here's what they have found so far:

Amazon still has (a lot) more traffic

Unsurprisingly, Amazon is beating Walmart by a mile in online traffic. The e-tail giant received over five times as much traffic than Walmart's website in the past twelve months.

Both companies have managed to gain traffic and stay in the top 100 Shopping sites, though Amazon is still the dominant leader. Amazon went from holding 29.6% of the traffic to 30.7% while Walmart only rose from 5.3% to 5.9%. So, just how much traffic is that? Take a gander at the SimilarWeb traffic data for yourself:

I feel like I'm having never-ending digital déjà vu. I can't stop comparing this to the Floyd Mayweather (Amazon) and Conor Mcgregor (Walmart) fight. Ouch. 

Amazon has higher quality traffic

Of course, quantity and quality are two different things. A high number of visitors doesn't necessarily mean increased sales. But, luckily for Amazon, it looks like the company has the best of both worlds.

On average:

  • Amazon's visitors stayed 2.5 minutes longer and viewed five more pages when compared to Walmart's visitors.
  • Amazon had much higher desktop traffic - 48% compared to Walmart's mere 28%. Where mobile traffic continues to be on the rise, desktop users are still more likely to convert (aka, actually buy something). Meaning, the advantage goes to Amazon here as well.

Amazon is dominating referrals (and a rising army of influencers)

covered this issue near the end of last year where I mentioned Walmart's attempts to grow search and referral traffic. Simply put, Amazon is crushing Walmart when it comes to referral traffic (which is typically any website that has a link that then redirects you Amazon once you click).

A comparison of both site's referral links shows that 95% of them go to Amazon. Furthermore, referrals account for 20% of Amazon's US traffic and only 9% of Walmart's US traffic. Another attributing differentiator is Amazon's Affiliate Program, which gives users up to 10% of product revenue and has become a popular way for influencers and bloggers to earn additional income.

Penny for your thoughts?

Where Walmart is by no means struggling as a retailer, it'll be interesting to see how they try and incorporate new, innovative strategies to bridge the digital gap.

If Amazon's numbers have taught me anything, it's how much they've cracked all mainstream buyer segments wide open. Consumer trust in online shopping continues to rise, which results in an explosive opportunity for new players to emerge where capturing even a piece of the market can be incredibly fruitful.

Published on: Apr 30, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.