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Walmart and Amazon’s Race to Rule Shopping


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Michael Calore: It’s complicated.

Lauren Goode: OK. What about Walmart?

Michael Calore: Ooh, I think I’ve been inside like one Walmart in my life.

Lauren Goode: Are you American? Like, what? How have you only been inside one Walmart?

Michael Calore: I don’t know. It’s just the way that I’ve rolled, I think.

Lauren Goode: I guess they don’t have enough vegan food. OK. Do you know the names of their big bosses? Not necessarily the current CEOs, but the people associated with founding these companies?

Michael Calore: Oh yeah, sure.

Lauren Goode: OK.

Michael Calore: Sam and Bud Walton, Jeff Bezos, Andy Jassy, Doug McMillon.

Lauren Goode: What if I told you that you are actually the boss?

Michael Calore: Ooh, that’s intriguing.

Lauren Goode: Yes, because how you spend your money and where you spend your money is ultimately what is most important to these companies. And so you hold a lot of power as a consumer with disposable income.

Michael Calore: OK, you have my attention.

Lauren Goode: All right, let’s talk about this.

[Gadget Lab intro theme music plays]

Lauren Goode: Hi everyone. Welcome to Gadget Lab. I’m Lauren Goode. I’m a senior writer at WIRED.

Michael Calore: And I am Michael Calore. I’m a senior editor at WIRED.

Lauren Goode: We’re also joined by longtime ecommerce and retail reporter Jason Del Rey. Jason is the author of a new book called Winner Sells All: Amazon, Walmart, and the Battle for Our Wallets. And not to bury the lead here, but perhaps most importantly, Jason is a former colleague of mine from the Recode days. Hi, Jason. It’s so great to have you on the Gadget Lab again.

Jason Del Rey: Lauren, always, always a pleasure, whether over dinner or behind a mic.

Lauren Goode: That’s right. There’s a whole story there about the last time we had dinner together, but we’ll save the steak story for later. Some of you might be thinking, “Well, this isn’t a Titans of Industry podcast. Why are we talking about the business of Amazon and Walmart on the Gadget Lab?” But the fact of the matter is we all shop, every single one of us, and these retailers, perhaps more than any retailer in American history, have forever changed the way we buy things. So Jason, in the first part of this show, I want to talk about the ways not only in which Amazon and Walmart are so obviously different, with Amazon being focused on ecommerce and Walmart having these huge stores, but also the ways in which they’re similar and how that has changed commerce. And then in the second half of the show we’ll get to the future of shopping—all of the wild, invisible, contactless ways that retailers want to keep us coming back to stores. So in your book, you write about the ways in which Amazon actually borrowed from the Walmart playbook. Which tenets of Walmart’s business informed Amazon’s strategy in the early days?

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