Walmart Grocery is expanding its $98 per year ‘Delivery Unlimited’ subscription across the U.S. – gpgmail

Walmart is expanding its brand-new “Delivery Unlimited” grocery delivery membership program to more stores across the U.S., with plans to reach over 50% of the country by year-end. The new program allows regular grocery delivery customers to pay either an annual fee of $98 or $12.95 on a monthly basis instead of paying the usual $9.99 per delivery fee. These options make Walmart Grocery delivery more affordable for those who order at least twice a month or more.

The program also gives Walmart a better way to compete with rival grocery delivery services including Amazon Prime Now/Whole Foods, Instacart, and Shipt, all of which offer subscription memberships.

Shipt currently charges $99 annually, and Target recently announced a way for Shipt shoppers to pay a per-order fee of $9.99 for the first time, by way of a Shipt integration on Instacart, meanwhile, cut its annual fee to $99 in November. Prime Now is the most expensive option at $119 per year, but includes all the perks of Amazon Prime’s broader membership program.

In June, gpgmail broke the news that Walmart’s Grocery Delivery Unlimited program was being trialed in Houston, Miami, Salt Lake City, and Tampa.

Those customers responded favorably, which is why the retailer decided to roll out the program to more U.S. markets.

Initially, that includes all 200 metro areas where Walmart Grocery Delivery is available today. By this fall, it will reach 1,400 stores. And by year-end, it will reach 1,600+ — or more than half the U.S.

The program doesn’t offer any other perks, beyond the savings for Walmart Grocery’s regular shoppers. However, it does have the advantage of locking customers into Walmart Grocery and increasing their return rates and loyalty.

Walmart’s Grocery business grown steadily over the years, and has become a favored alternative to higher-priced services like Instacart where the individual products are marked up as a means of generating revenue. Walmart, on the other hand, charges the same online as it does in stores — the only added cost is the delivery fee and tip. (Pickup is free).

Today, Walmart Grocery Pickup is offered at nearly 3,000 stores and Walmart employs more than 45,000 personal shoppers to fill its online grocery orders. Walmart Grocery Delivery, as noted, is on track for over 1,600 stores this year.

Unlike some grocery delivery businesses, Walmart doesn’t operate its own network of delivery professionals or independent contractors. Instead, Walmart partners with delivery providers across the U.S., including Point Pickup, Skipcart, AxleHire, Roadie, Postmates, and DoorDash. It has also tried, then ended, relationships with Deliv, Uber, and Lyft.

“We’ve been investing in our online grocery business by quickly expanding our Grocery Pickup and Delivery
services. Delivery Unlimited is the next step in that journey,” said Tom Ward, senior vice president, Digital
Operations, Walmart U.S., in a statement about the launch. “By pairing our size and scale and these services we’re making Walmart the easiest place to shop. Combine that with the value we can provide, our customers can’t lose,” he said.

Last month, Walmart reported its 20th consecutive quarter of sales gains in the U.S., with $130.38 million in revenue, earnings per share of $1.27, and net income to $3.61 billion, beating expectations. It said at the time that e-commerce sales had grown 37% in the quarter, in large part because of the rollout of next-day delivery and same-day grocery delivery.

Delivery Unlimited will not replace the pay-per delivery fee — that will remain an option for those who don’t want to subscribe. Customers will be able to see if the service is available in the market by visiting the Walmart Grocery website.


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Google Express to close in a few weeks, will become part of Google Shopping – gpgmail

Google’s failed online shopping service Google Express is closing in a few weeks, as its features will be merged into a revamped version of Google Shopping, Google says in an email sent to its customers this week. The company had already announced its plans to shutter the Google Express brand, as part of a wider redesign of how it approached online shopping. This included new advertising options for brands and online sellers, as well as a universal shopping cart across its platform of services, like Search, Shopping, Images, and even YouTube.

While Google is characterizing Google Express’s closure as an “integration,” it’s really more of a sunsetting of a failed product and brand.

Google Express was Google’s high-profile attempt to compete with Amazon for online shopping clicks and ad dollars buy creating a virtual mall on the web filled with top retailers’ products. Because Google is not a retailer itself, it did what it knows best — it organized information. At Google Express, you could find products from thousands of retailers — including big names like Walmart, Target, Walgreens, Best Buy, and others. And you could shop through a dedicated online storefront on the web, a Google Express mobile app, or even Google Assistant.

In the latter case, Google Express partnered with retailers like Walmart and Target for deep integrations for voice-enabled shopping. As direct competitors with Amazon, these retailers didn’t want to offer third-party skills for Echo users or others on Amazon’s Alexa platform. Google represented a safer third-party platform for their experiments with voice commands and personalized shopping.

But even several years after launch, Google Express had failed to offer any real threat to Amazon. Its retail partners, meanwhile, were building out their own fulfillment businesses for their customers’ online orders — like Walmart Grocery’s curbside pickup and delivery, for example, or Target’s Shipt, Drive Up, and Restock.

Not too much later, Target and Walmart were pulling out of Google Express.

Google has tried to downplay the news of Google Express’s demise by including it as just another part to the larger Google Shopping revamp. After all, it’s not a shutdown, the company implied. Its features were simply becoming a part of Google Shopping! Nothing to see here! Just a rebrand!

But clearly, Google Express had been unable to establish itself in consumers’ minds as its own dedicated shopping destination. If customers wanted an online mall, they already had one with either Amazon or Walmart and their vast third-party marketplaces where you could find just about anything you’d need. Nor had Google innovated (or acquired) across key areas like warehousing or logistics, while others like Amazon, Target and Walmart had been spending billions.

With Google Shopping, Google goes back to its search engine roots. It aims to simply capture consumers’ clicks, ad dollars and now conversions no matter where they are on Google’s sites — whether that’s shopping from Merch shelves under YouTube videos, browsing photos in a Pinterest-y manner on Google Images, or through more traditional Google searches for products where ads become shoppable, and shopping carts follow you around Google’s part of the web.

In an email to Google Express shoppers that was sent this week, Google says Google Express will be integrated with Shopping in a few weeks’ time.

The redesigned Google Shopping will then be available across the web and through apps for iOS and Android later this month. At that point, the Google Express apps will automatically update to become Google Shopping, if you already had them installed.

The full email about Google Express’ closure is below:


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Target’s personalized loyalty program launches nationwide next month – gpgmail

Target today announced its new, data-driven loyalty program, Target Circle, will launch nationwide on October, 6th, following a year and a half of beta testing in select markets. The program combines a variety of features including 1% back on purchases, birthday rewards, and personalized offers and savings designed to make the program more attractive to consumers.

It also includes a way for customers to vote on Target’s community giving initiatives, which helps directs Target’s giving to around 800 nonprofits in the U.S.

The new program is designed to lure in customers who have yet to adopt Target’s store card, REDcard. While REDcard penetration today is around 23%, that number has remained fairly consistent over time — in fact, it’s down about one percentage point from a year ago.

With Target Circle, however, the retailer has another means of generating loyalty and establishing a connection with its customers on a more individualized basis.

A big part of that is the personalized aspect of the Target Circle program. In addition to the “birthday perks” (an easy way to grab some demographic data), customers will also get special discounts on the categories they “shop most often” — meaning, Target will be tapping into its treasure trove of customer purchase history to make recommendations from both in-store and online purchases along with other signals.

“As guests shop, Target leverages information about their shopping behaviors and purchases to share relevant offers that create an even more personalized, seamless shopping experience,” a company spokesperson explained, when asked for details about the data being used. “For example, a guest who frequently shops Target for baby products may receive a special offer on their next purchase of baby items.”

TargetCircle NonBeta 19 Brand RGB Logo Red

According to a recent retail study from Avionos, 78% of consumers are more likely to purchase from retailers that better personalize their experiences and 63% are more open to sharing personal information if retailers can better anticipate needs.

And as some may recall, Target is already scary good at personalization.

In one notable case, the retailer figured out a teen girl was pregnant before her father did, and sent her coupons for baby items. The dad, understandably, was angry — until he found out that Target was right.

That story was a high-profile example of the data collection and analysis big retailers are doing all the time, though. Target Circle simply formalizes this into an opt-in program instead of an opt-out experience.

As part of the changes, Target’s Cartwheel savings are rolling into Target Circle where they’ll be rebranded as Target Circle offers. 

TargetCircle inApp

Circle members will also get early access to special sales throughout the year — that is, the events people line up for, like they did for the Lilly Pulitzer fashion line or more recently, the quickly sold out Vineyard Vines collection.

Target says, in time, it will come up with “even more personalized, relevant ways” to make shopping easier for its customers.

The new program is meant to complement the REDcard, which will increase the cashback to 5% when used. But REDcard holders can still join Circle to take advantage of the other perks.


“Our guests are at the center of everything we do, and we’re always looking for ways to create even easier, more rewarding shopping experiences that give them another reason to choose Target,” said Rick Gomez, Target executive vice president, and chief marketing and digital officer, in a statement. “We worked directly with guests to develop Target Circle, and the program includes the benefits and perks they told us were most important to them, from earning on every trip to having the opportunity to help Target make a positive impact in their local communities,” he said.

The loyalty program had been in testing in Dallas-Ft. Worth, Charlotte, Denver, Indianapolis, Kansas City and Phoenix over the past 18 months.

Though not having Amazon’s scale, Target has done well at quickly innovating to keep up with today’s pace of e-commerce. In short order, it has made over its stores to make more room for order pickups and online grocery, and has launched and expanded new services like Target Restock (next-day), Shipt (same day delivery) and Drive Up (same day pickup). The changes have been paying off with Target beating on its latest earnings with $18.42 billion in revenue and profits of $938 million.


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Target’s Drive Up pickup service expands nationwide – gpgmail

Target’s same-day curbside pickup service, Drive Up, has now reached all 50 U.S. states, the retailer announced on Thursday. The service allows consumers to shop online then pull up to designated spaces at their local store to have their purchases ferried to their vehicle by Target staff.

Drive Up has rolled out to Target stores at a fairly fast pace, given the technology requirements, infrastructure and operational changes required to support these fast-to-fill online orders.

The company in April 2018 introduced Drive Up to its first locations outside of Target’s hometown market of Minneapolis-St. Paul, where it had been in piloting testing since October 2017. With the public launch, Drive Up was immediately available across nearly 270 stores in Florida, Texas and the Southeast. By summer 2018, it had reached over 800 stores, with plans to reach 1,000 by year-end.

Instead, it hit the 1,000-store milestone in October 2018.

And with the start of this year’s back-to-school shopping season, Drive Up became available at over 1,500 stores.

With the expansion announced today, Drive Up has now reached 1,750 stores, thanks to recent rollouts in Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming. As it launches in new locations, Target will often dole out free product samples as a perk for its first customers and to encourage repeat business.

Overall, Drive Up seems to be working to bring more consumers to its stores — even if they don’t come inside.

In less than two year’s time, Drive Up has become one of Target’s best-rated services. During its most recent earnings, Target noted that it had more than doubled the total number of Drive Up orders in 2018 by fulfilling nearly 5 million orders within the first part of this year alone.

The retailer also recently noted that roughly 1 in 5 customers placing a same-day order in Q2 were placing an order with Target for the first time.

The backend side of Drive Up has improved over time, as well, with improvements to optimize both order picking and delivery of curbside orders to customers.

At launch, Target was committing to fulfill Drive Up orders within 2 hours. Today, Target says it’s able to offer fulfillment by Drive Up in as soon as one hour.

By this holiday season, Target says that “most” of its 1,855 U.S. stores will offer Drive Up service.

“We’ve heard the message loud and clear from our guests: They absolutely love the ease and convenience of Drive Up, whether they’re shopping for household essentials, road trip snacks or baby gear,” said Dawn Block, senior vice president, digital, in a statement about the nationwide expansion. “So our team has worked hard to rapidly expand the service since its introduction less than two years ago to all 50 states. And the work’s not done. The team’s continuing to find ways to make the service even better.”

The service is not without competition, however.

Walmart Grocery offers curbside pickup at over 2,500 locations. Sam’s Club in July announced same-day pickup nationwide. Amazon, which has historically lacked a brick-and-mortar presence, has been quick to react to the threat of curbside pickup. Most recently, it announced a new partnership with Rite Aid, that will see the arrival of a “Counter” service — a free, in-store pickup option — at 1,500 Rite Aid locations by year-end. (Amazon also offers grocery pickup at select Whole Foods.)

However, in-store pickup isn’t quite as convenient as curbside service. And that’s especially true for curbside’s top demographic: parents — often those with young children. Among Target Drive Up’s best-sellers, for example, are things like diapers, wipes, and formula.

Drive Up is one of several ways Target is fighting back against Amazon. The company also now owns same-day delivery service Shipt, offers online order pickup, subscriptions to common household items, and runs a Prime Pantry competitor with next-day service, Target Restock. 

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Report: ‘Amazon’s Choice’ Label Offered in Exchange for Higher Ad Spending, Lower Prices

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For years, Amazon has offered a label on certain products denoting that they were “Amazon’s Choice.” For years, it’s been unclear exactly which products are chosen for this heady designation or what sales targets, user ratings, or other qualifications they must achieve to be so labeled. Amazon describes Amazon’s Choice products as “highly rated, well-priced products available to ship immediately,” but it’s been known to appear on products that aren’t even shipping yet, and therefore definitionally cannot have been rated by anyone affiliated with or buying from Amazon. It’s also appeared on poorly rated junk items.

Now, a new report from Digiday suggests Amazon used to have a remarkably straightforward process for deciding which products will be labeled “Amazon’s Choice.” Companies were invited to bid on the badge by lowering their prices and spending more money on advertising with Amazon. A pitch deck reviewed by that publication lays out the criteria: To qualify to bid, Amazon first-party vendors — resellers could not apply — had to maintain brand ratings above four stars, keep products in stock for 12 months, and maintain various technical subcategory ratings. Digiday writes:

In an email to a brand client, an Amazon strategic vendor service manager recommended the brand drop its selling price by $30 in order to win the bid, a move that would increase Amazon’s profits on the sale. For vendors, access to a strategic vendor service manager, considered to provide inside access to Amazon, costs hundreds of thousands of dollars per year…

As Amazon has done in the past to lure attractive brands on its platform, it offered other incentives to potential bidders. In the deck, it pitched additional marketing value including free A+ analytics and discounted premium A+ analytics, Amazon Vine credits (which give brands access to free product reviews from customers), email promotions and higher inventory purchases for 12 weeks.

In exchange, Amazon wanted the brands to commit to putting resources into their product listings in order to win the badge. The deck said that customer return rate and damage rate percentages, past sell-through, expert reviews, margin growth, additional marketing investments across Amazon’s ad products, content creation and strong promotions would be considered for each bid. In terms of marketing investments, Amazon asked bidders to list investments that they planned to make to support the product, as well as marketing that already was running.


Image by Buzzfeed

According to Amazon, this program ran briefly in 2017 and has since been rolled back, but problems with the Amazon’s Choice program persist. I’ve had poor results when using it — the HDMI cables I purchased recently that were “Amazon’s Choice” have problems with green snow appearing in 3D games, despite the fact that these cables are supposedly HDMI 2.0b-certified. I bought two and both are defective. Some of the iPhone cables I’ve purchased that were certified under the same program have been garbage and failed within a matter of months; others have worked perfectly for years. I will be the first person to say that the plural of “anecdote” is not “data,” but my experience agrees with a Buzzfeed investigation this past June. Amazon’s Choice labels have appeared on products the manufacturer labeled as inaccurate, like a baby thermometer. Buzzfeed’s investigation found “Amazon’s Choice” lockpicks that can be picked in a matter of seconds. The “Amazon’s Choice” AmazonBasics Security Safe can be picked in three seconds. A flask purchased on the website turned whiskey black and other customers complained of a horrid, metallic taste.

The issue has recently escalated to the US Senate. US Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) has sent a letter to Jeff Bezos demanding additional information on how products are chosen to be labeled as “Amazon’s Choice.” The letter notes that consumers commonly identify the label as indicating that Amazon has selected a product, specifically, as a recommended choice. The badge is also worth a good deal of money; a study by OC&C Strategy Consultants found that products labeled “Amazon’s Choice” experienced a threefold sales increase, while products de-listed as “Amazon’s Choice” suffered a 30 percent sales drop.

The letter requests a detailed explanation of how the decision is made to apply the label, as well as information on whether an algorithm is involved and, if so, whether or not the algorithm’s decisions are reviewed by a human. The letter also requests information on what Amazon considers “highly rated,” the steps it takes to remove fraudulent listings, whether companies are allowed to bid to receive the Amazon’s Choice label, and how it deals with the practice of review recycling (the practice of applying old reviews to new product revisions without disclosing it).

My own advice is to treat the “Amazon’s Choice” label with skepticism and to do your own homework before buying the product. I’ve had enough bad luck with it that I don’t trust it anymore.

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