Inside Walmart’s Quest to Become the Go-To Retailer for Pickup and Delivery
Walmart confirmed that there will be no advertising in the Super Bowl this year, meaning its 2020 debut will remain the US retail giant’s only appearance as an official big game advertiser for at least another year.
Walmart is one of the few retailers that was really successful in 2020 despite the pandemic. And now that uncertainty persists for many American consumers, the retailer is hoping to play an even bigger role in their lives.
At the National Retail Federation’s annual event last week, Deloitte chief economist Ira Kalish said he expected the economy to grow slowly for most of 2021 – and we will continue to see “significant disruptions” in the consumer market.
“We obviously hope that with the introduction of a vaccine we will see a significant recovery in economic activity by the end of the year,” he said.
In response, Janey Whiteside, executive vice president and chief customer officer of Walmart, stated that Walmart customers “are absolutely not immune to the economic slowdown … [and] can even be disproportionately affected. “
In fact, she cited numbers from November showing that nearly half of Walmart’s customers were worried about the economy and 40% didn’t expect a quick recovery. According to Whiteside, this means that Walmart’s focus on everyday low prices “will continue to play an important role with customers.”
“I think the thought of saving money to live better now is probably more relevant than ever,” she added.
Indeed, the use of services such as collection and delivery increased dramatically in 2020. For example, in the first quarter, Walmart saw these services grow 300% – and four times as many new customers using them.
This is in part because of Walmart’s sizable footprint – the retailer fondly reminds us that their 4,800 U.S. stores place it within 10 miles of 90% of Americans. However, according to Whiteside, Walmart was also able to easily take advantage of omnichannel by filling out orders from nearby stores when an item was out of stock at a distribution center. Walmart can also offer its express delivery service, which processes online orders within a few hours.
“The ability to manage our inventory no matter where it is is a huge advantage for us in my opinion,” she said.
Whiteside also believes stores will continue to play an important role in retail as consumers still demand an experience component of shopping. With this in mind, Walmart is thinking about what the next iteration of the in-store experience will look like when customers want to be back in stores, and how it can make them the point of contact for pickup and delivery services.
Meanwhile, Walmart is also thinking about how all of its customers’ data can be married to better understand and better serve them. This includes data from stationary and online retail as well as from the areas of pharmacies, health, wellness and financial services. Data from all of these sources provides a comprehensive view of customers whom Whiteside says the retailer can offer “more meaningful services”.
“Think about our ability to know if someone with the right permissions is gluten free or has celiac disease [disease] or has a specific health problem, ”she said. “We can marry that along with health data … [and] Food recommendations in a really interesting way. “
While she found that consumers in general have fairly visceral responses to in-home retail services – like the refrigerator delivery option that was first tested in 2017 – Whiteside continues to test in-home services, even if those are limited now, according to Walmart Front doors and garages. It’s really just the next step beyond ridesharing, she said.