According to Taylor Van Hare and Walmart representatives Jacqui Canney and Brian Baker, retail isn’t dead. Personally, I think they’re 100% right, but one of the main topics we’ve Tweeted, blogged, and discussed I class is Amazon’s looming world domination and the death of retail stores. How exactly is Walmart going to compete in this digital world, and keep brick and mortar stores in business?
If you were paying attention in class last week, and not scrolling through Tasty Videos or Instagram on your computer, your ears would’ve perked up when Jacqui Canney, Executive Vice President of Walmart’s Global People Divison, mentioned that retail is not dying, instead, the way work is done in retail is changing. In order to stay relevant, Walmart is not focusing on Amazon, one of their many competitors. Instead, Walmart is focusing on improving its e-commerce abilities by building out its online sales, while leveraging physical stores to its advantage. According to Business Insider, these efforts are seeing success, as Walmart’s financial reports detail that e-commerce sales improved by 60%, with gross merchandise volume increasing 67% over the prior-year (2016) quarter.
Constructing Its Digital Presence
As Ms. Canney told us in class last Wednesday, Walmart acquired Jet.com for $3.3 billion dollars. That’s a massive sum of money for just one acquisiton, and WalMart CEO Doug McMillon said “If WalMart were starting today and we were building an e-commerce business, some of the things that Jet designed into their approach would have been things [Walmart] would have thought of and we would have wanted to do, and they’ve just done it from scratch.” In other words, Jet had knowledge of digital capabilities, especially in customer experience, that Walmart could use to improve financials and increase their digital presence. Walmart also made smaller purchases of Bonobos, a men’s clothing company, outdoor retailer Moosejaw, women’s clothier Modcloth. They also appointed Marc Lore, Jet’s CEO, as head of eCommerce at Wal-mart. Wal-mart plans to combine these organizations’ expertise in eCommerce with their immense retail knowledge to access different consumer segments and demographics while expanding their digital presence.
Personal Shopping: Changing Brick and Mortar Retail
In-store shopping isn’t dying. According to Business Insider, online sales accounted for only 8.2% of total U.S. retail sales for the quarter ended June 2017. The result? 91.8% of retail transactions are happening in-store. Walmart is capitalizing on their extensive distribution of stores to remain a top player in retail by stocking items during the day, introducting inventory management technology, and rolling out in-store grocery pickup and personal shopping.
Earlier this quarter, Walmart announced (in this blog post) that they were shifting overnight stocking hours to the daytime and using technology to make the inventory management process easier; this shift presents benefits to both customers and Walmart assocaites. For customers, in-store experience will be more consistent and shoppers are more likely to find their products in stock. For associates, it means a greater emphasis on customer experience the ability to move to a more desirable daytime schedule, which improves employee morale. For the company as a whole, this allows for better supply chain management.Walmart did not specify what kind of inventory management technology it is investing in, but there are many options today, ranging from in-store roborts and radio frequency ID tags that Zara uses. Walmart will absolutely be able to find inventory management technology that fits its business model.
Walmart introduced in-store grocery pickup in 2016, tapping into its large brick-and-mortar footprint. This platform allows customers to shop online or on mobile, then pull up at their local store to grab their order. According to Techcrunch.com,
“Walmart’s grocery pickup service is also more heavily used by women.That means that it tends to cater to the mom-on-the-go type, who’s out running errands with kids and wants to save time by not having to exit her car.” Walmart is able to combine both its brick and mortar retail with their online presence with this offering. Customers order with their digital platform, and then visit the store to pick up their items. It’s a win-win-win! This move also gives Walmart a competitive angle to counter pricier online grocery delivery services (@Amazon Fresh and @Whole Foods, no shade though!).
My Notes: How Walmart Could Improve Their Website
Before leaving class on Wednesday, Ms. Canney and Mr. Baker stated that they were open to hearing our commentary about their digital platform and website. After perusing their site, I have a few short notes:
- The search bar at the top is good, but the sales promotion ad banner directly under it is so big and distracting that the front page is too noisy
- Walmart should advertise their free 2-day shipping, and the fact that consumer’s don’t need to subscribe to their services to benefit from this shipping offer.
- I had no idea that was an option, and as someone who does all of their shopping online, even for personal hygiene products like shampoo and toothpaste, this should be promoted!
- Overall, it’s very easy to navigate and has a great layout and design. I’m definitely going to test out their online services and 2-day delivery–What a steal!!
- Walmart Today, the company blog, is awesome. It’s a great way to connect with consumers by sharing stories and company news. You should all go check it out!
There’s not very many negative things to say about the website, and Walmart absolutely has the platform to expand their digital presence. I’m going to be keeping my eye out for them in the headlines, and will be rooting for them to not only survive Amazon’s world domination, but remain a top retail competitor as they build out their online and in-store presence.