Offering up the same deals online is a marked shift for the retailer, as the purpose of major Black Friday doorbusters has traditionally been just that — to get people superexcited about getting to the store. Once they're inside, the idea is to sell them on more items than they came in for.
Also, by getting shoppers to visit a physical store, it discourages them from jumping ship to a competitor — something that's effortless to do while browsing the Web.
According to a recent study by Deloitte, 56 percent consumers who don't find what they're looking for at a retailer's bricks-and-mortar store said they would first try to find the item on the company's website or in another one of its stores.
Online, however, only 15 percent said they would remain loyal.
Wal-Mart's latest announcement isn't the first surprise it has delivered regarding its online strategy this season. The retailer has already said that it would maintain its minimum $50 purchase requirement to earn free shipping, despite competitors including Target and Best Buy offering free shipping on all online orders.
Michael Bender, Wal-Mart's chief operating officer of global e-commerce, reiterated that decision on Wednesday, saying consumers have been responding well to its new mobile check-in capability and rebranded pick-up locations.
He pointed out that shoppers can still get their online orders free of charge by picking them up in store, adding that the average basket during the holidays tends to carry a bit higher price tag than during the rest of the year.
"It's important for us to make sure that all of that is incorporated into the decisions that we make around free shipping," Bender said. "We're not concerned about it. Our customers are going to continue to shop with us."