Will Walmart Defeat Amazon?
Walmart’s TikTok play has long been coming. Perhaps not with TikTok specifically in mind, but Walmart knows that to compete with Amazon, it has to get its head (and feet) into the content game. It might have been a surprise to some when Walmart sold their VOD service, Vudu, to Fandango earlier this year, but as soon as Walmart announced their advertising business, I could see their logic from switching from content distributor to content playmaker.
Walmart saw that great content was necessary, but retail is zooming past the boundaries of entertainment and integrating into something new.
We’re close to the day when we’ll watch our favorite Amazon Prime show, tap on the screen and order Mrs. Maisel’s outfit through Amazon. Soon we will pause a podcast and ask Alexa to order the product that the host is raving about.
Having made retail frictionless, Amazon knows that it’s maybe less than two years from when retail and entertainment become one and the same. And Walmart knows that it has to bolster the Walmart experience to make a stand against Amazon.
TikTok is the answer.
But not in the way we’ve been anticipating. Yes, e-commerce is becoming more content driven, interactive and virtual (hello AR!), but the real battleground of e-commerce will take place in the hottest retail trend yet: Health.
Yes, health. Health retail will be where Walmart might yet out-smart, out-maneuver and (dare we say) out-deliver Amazon.
Already a trusted source for OTC health products, Walmart health super centers are providing low cost-high quality care to Americans who have famously been left behind by health tech’s advances. While Amazon’s PillPack, Alexa medication integrations, and tech infrastructure are marvels to behold, they lack the trust and transparency American consumers have come to know as the retail experience. And while Amazon may wise up and start offering in-person care services, perhaps at Whole Foods (Whole Health?) or Prime Doctors on Demand (only after launching a telehealth service through Chime, Amazon’s version of Zoom), they will still struggle to cultivate trust and sustain engagement.
Why? Because Big Tech, no matter their expertise in innovation and logistics, still treats consumers like products, not humans; data, not people.
And even though Amazon has award-winning TV and movies, they are not a content platform that is powered by their users. Rather, they are a monolith powered by tech executives who have a baked in focus on data, not the human experience.
TikTok is the ideal location for content creators, with content that is generated by the very people it entertains. Powered by their own creativity, desires and agency, TikTokkers are able to cultivate community and a network effect you can’t find on Amazon Prime. TikTok has built a global community of humans who interact directly with their followers, collaborate with each other, and foster relationships that deliver enduring engagement. And with a global community of real relationships amplified by content, TikTok’s ability to transform e-commerce into a social, entertaining experience will be unparalleled to any other.
Which brings us back to health retail.
How will Walmart use TikTok to deliver a transformative health retail experience?
While health remains a disengaging, alienating topic for most, TikTok has unlocked a socially driven health experience that has astronomical user engagement and stickiness that would make any health care company green with envy. Walmart could leverage TikTok’s creator-owned relationships to promote their health services and products, outshining Big Tech’s attempts to better the health experience. Creator owned narratives will drive e-commerce activity to brick and mortar services, such as Walmart health super centers. What’s more socially validating than posting a TikTok challenge video of getting your flu shot at Walmart?
Yes, there will be advertising opportunities galore within TikTok, but what’s even more exciting is Walmart’s opportunity to create health content that aligns with the values and stories of today’s Screen-first Consumer™ . There will be no divide between health, retail and entertainment; It will all be one social experience that is rewarding and enduring. And, if done right, Walmart could leverage TikTok to create Health Entertainment: entertainment that just so happens to improve health.
So as Amazon releases its Halo Ban fitness device, continuing its foray into health, while relying on data and technology to solve health engagement, I will be carefully watching Walmart’s content creator strategy shift health retail….hopefully for the better.