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In a span of just over a quarter of a century, the internet has drastically changed the landscape of the retail economy as online shopping has grown from basic ‘electronic malls’ to the preferred purchase path for millions of people worldwide. Now, the limits of what eCommerce might ultimately become are being pushed even further.

Just a few short years after Amazon.com introduced its Prime membership offering, which affords consumers free two-day shipping on most items for a flat annual fee, the eTail giant quietly started shipping certain items same day. Yes, you read that correctly; given a favorable set of circumstances (which item, where it is being shipped, what time of day the order was made, etc.), consumers can place an order online and receive their purchase in just a few short hours, conveniently delivered to their doorstep by Amazon’s preferred carrier, UPS.

Just in time for the approaching holiday season, Walmart is preparing to offer its online customers the same luxury service in select cities, leveraging its massive stores as impromptu distribution centers. In theory, Walmart’s nearly 9,000 locations and the sheer size of its stores’ inventory could equate to the company having the capability to compete with Amazon in the online channel, a feat no other retailer has even dared attempt. The move seems to be an obvious attempt to cut into Amazon’s dominance online, especially when considering that in September, Walmart decided to discontinue selling Amazon’s popular e-book reader the Kindle. Same-day shipping during the holiday season and beyond would be a logical next major stepping stone towards matching what Amazon can already offer its loyal customers.

As our infrastructure continues to improve and consumers become more educated and attuned to shopping online, the possibility of same-day shipping could become the turning point for the next phase in the timeline of retail commerce. Companies like Amazon and Walmart are taking the lead on the forefront of innovation, charging to take advantage of a new breed of customer that demands instant gratification. Who will make the next big move?

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