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The numbers are eye-popping...
As my colleague Michael A. Robinson pointed out last week, online shopping exploded to the tune of $4.13 trillion during this past year, fueled largely by the pandemic.
That's bigger than the entire economy of Germany.
Don't get me wrong - e-commerce was making waves long before then, but the coronavirus pushed it to totally unexpected heights.
Now, usually, when you say the word "e-commerce," Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) comes right to mind. I mean, it is the trailblazer there; it practically invented e-commerce.
Trouble is, you can't get into Amazon for less than $3,100 a share right now; it's a great company, but that's a little rich for most regular investors.
And this could be controversial, but, in my opinion, Amazon, while good, isn't necessarily the best e-commerce play right now.
Instead, I think the crown - and your investment dollar - belongs here...
Walmart Has Poured on the Hustle
We've all had to make some rapid changes this year, and the corporate world is certainly no exception.
Amazon's enjoyed a lot of success over the years (to put it mildly) with an absolutely mind-blowing selection of products and some of the fastest shipping out there.
But companies that, say, didn't have the easiest, most user-friendly website navigation, or the fastest, most flexible shipping options, have had to really step up their game as millions more Americans spent trillions more dollars from home.
In short, they've had to emulate the "Amazon model" and do it faster and better.
Walmart Inc. (NYSE: WMT) has done the best job of it. And you can own it for 1/22 the cost of AMZN.
Now, Walmart is turning its significantly improved "guns" on one of the biggest, nastiest problems in the e-commerce business... the dreaded return process.
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Returns have gotten easier for customers, but the thing is, from a corporate bottom-line point of view, maybe they've gotten a little too easy. Overly liberal return policies, restocking confusion, physical returns - all of this costs e-commerce outfits millions of dollars every year. They view it as a loss-leader, a cost of doing business to keep customers happy, but now Walmart has devised a way to keep its customers happy and keep its returns losses down.
To do this, Walmart has recently partnered with the logistics wizards at FedEx Corp. (NYSE: FDX). FedEx will pick up and transport customer returns to central locations in the Walmart logistics system, greatly streamlining the "back end" for Walmart - but, critically, this "Carrier Pickup by FedEx" service will be easier than ever for Walmart customers to use.
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Oh, and it's free, too. It's all done through the Walmart mobile app, and if a customer doesn't have a printer to take care of the return label, they can drop the whole shebang off at a FedEx location for processing at no charge.
This is a game-changer for Walmart in its quest to compete with Amazon; it puts the company on a whole new level in my opinion.
The plan to improve shipping and returns couldn't come at a more opportune time for Walmart. Its online sales jumped 79% in the third quarter, and estimates agree that a repeat is in order for this, the fourth quarter of 2020.
I'm looking at the numbers, and I'm feeling the love.
And I, for one, am sharing the optimism. Buy Walmart here at market the second you get a chance, and buy more on any pullback whatsoever. I'm not so sure we'll get one; the stock has strong support at $140, and it hasn't seemed willing to go back and test that for a few weeks now. I do think it could go back to its November highs before much longer, though.
Walmart has done just about everything right over the course of the pandemic; in my book, it's one of the biggest winners of 2020. The biggest winners of 2020 could very well be a small, hand-picked group of my followers.
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About the Author
Andrew Keene, editor of the 1450 Club, Super Options, and Project 303 at Money Map Press, is a globally known trader and a renowned expert on all things options.