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Is This How Wal-Mart Finally Beats

By Rick Munarriz - Oct 10, 2012 at 6:00PM

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Amazon may have started the same-day delivery war, but it's not in a position to finish it.

When (AMZN -3.87%) introduced same-day delivery in a few cities earlier this year, it seemed like a silly idea.

The online retailer is known for its ability to offer a wide array of merchandise. Its most loyal customers -- those paying $79 a year for Amazon Prime -- receive free two-day shipping of any Amazon-stocked items. Were cost-conscious Amazon shoppers really open to rush in orders by 11 a.m. and paying at least $8.99 in shipping to receive items that same night?

Well, Amazon's 10-city test of same-day delivery has apparently inspired the world's largest retailer to follow suit.

Wal-Mart (WMT 0.73%) revealed yesterday that it will introduce same-day delivery in Northern Virginia, Philly, Minneapolis, and the San Francisco area. The offering will start next month, just in time for this year's critical holiday shopping season.

Wal-Mart will charge a flat $10 fee for orders of any size. Walmart To Go purchases must be made by noon. Buyers can then pick a four-hour delivery window for later that night.

The push for speedier deliveries won't make brick-and-mortar chains rest any easier, but it's surprising that it was Amazon that championed the cause.

Amazon is an innovator and a disruptor, but it can only push same-day deliveries so far. Unlike Wal-Mart and its regional network of thousands of stores, Amazon can't stray too far from where it has its handful of warehouses.

eBay (EBAY -3.26%) is testing same-day delivery in San Francisco, but it has the advantage of simply pairing up local buyers with sellers. Amazon can't do that with most of its merchandise.

Same-day delivery isn't cheap. It also isn't perfect. Amazon and Wal-Mart are both limited in what they can offer for same-day customers. Despite massive online catalogs for both retailers, only merchandise that is stocked locally can be ordered.

However, Amazon started it. Now what is it going to do to finish it?

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