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Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN), Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (WMT): Emerging Leaders in Online Grocery Shopping and Home Delivery

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Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN)Expect to see online grocery sales expand in the coming years, as more online shopping opportunities are made available to the public. Online grocery sales currently account for 1% of the $631 billion U.S. grocery market. As retailers perfect their revenue models for online grocery shopping, expect to see online grocery and home delivery services rapidly expanded to markets across the country.

Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN), the perceived leader

Amazon recently rolled out Prime Fresh, an annual membership model to get customers to participate in the Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) Fresh grocery home delivery program. Amazon Fresh is only available in limited markets at the moment, but plans are in the works to expand to 20 different cities across the globe.

The membership for Prime Fresh will cost $299 per year and offer free same-day and overnight shipping on grocery and household items. Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) has proven the success of membership models through their existing Prime membership. Amazon has learned that offering a fixed annual membership cost that includes free shipping incentivizes customers to make Amazon their first stop when shopping.

As an added benefit, Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) has discovered that Prime members often make additional purchases beyond their original shopping intentions. Amazon hopes that the same customer psychology will come into play with the new Prime Fresh model and encourage additional purchase beyond groceries. This will help make the grocery and home delivery services more profitable and prove to be a working revenue model.

Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) plans to expand Amazon Fresh services to the San Francisco area later this year. If the project goes well, then we can expect to see a massive deployment of Amazon Fresh to several major cities. As an investor, carefully watch Amazon’s deployment of Prime Fresh to new markets. Rapid deployment to new markets will likely indicate that they have found a profitable model for Amazon Fresh and are looking to increase earnings.

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT), the strategic giant

Wal-Mart has been experimenting with the grocery home delivery model since 2011. In the United Kingdom, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) owns a subsidiary called Asda. Asda is currently the largest online grocery shopping and home delivery service in the U.K. The service has worked so well that they are testing similar services in U.S. markets.

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) currently has a “Wal-Mart To Go” service available in San Francisco and San Jose. Although Wal-Mart is testing the concept of online grocery shopping and home delivery, they don’t appear to be paving the way in the market place. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT)’s Global e-Commerce President, Neil Ashe has recently indicated that the concept isn’t ready for mass implementation in the U.S. at the moment. She has suggested that the U.S. market doesn’t have the same level of customers willing to use the home delivery services as in the U.K.

It appears that Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) is waiting in the wings for its rivals such as Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) to take the lead and pave the way for home delivery. When Amazon starts to prove the concept and show profitable margins with home delivery, expect Wal-Mart to jump on the bandwagon.

The Kroger Co. (NYSE:KR), the seeker

The big retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) and Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) are not the only grocery retailers looking to get into the online grocery game. The Kroger Co. (NYSE:KR) has been testing online shopping and home delivery at its King Soopers stores located in the Denver area. The company has been testing the concept of home delivery for several years. The Chief Operating Officer, Rodney McMullen has indicated that the company is still trying to figure out the economics and find a model that is actually profitable for the company.

The Kroger Co. (NYSE:KR) continues to experiment with online grocery shopping to make the model viable for profitability and scalability. Kroger recently announced that it intends to purchase Harris Teeter Supermarkets Inc (NYSE:HTSI) for $2.4 billion. Harris Teeter will help Kroger in the deployment of online grocery shopping and delivery. Harris Teeter has a service called Express Lane online shopping service. The company has been working hard to get shoppers to understand the benefits of online shopping and home delivery. Kroger will benefit greatly from Harris Teeter’s experiences in the home delivery market.

As an investor, carefully watch The Kroger Co. (NYSE:KR) acquisition of Harris Teeter. Keep an eye on Kroger’s most recent developments in online grocery shopping and home delivery. Kroger may walk away from the acquisition with new insights on how to make online shopping and home delivery profitable.

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