I would bet that a majority of people wouldn’t expect a company that inspired the website peopleofwalmart.com would be one that is leading the way in digital innovation in retail, but as hard as it is to believe, it’s true. Simply reading the first page of Wal-Mart’s annual report shows the emphasis they are putting on integrating the digital and physical shopping experience for their customers, or as the current CEO Doug McMillon puts it, Wal-Mart’s “intent on creating transformative growth by adding capabilities in e-commerce and mobile commerce”. This emphasis on innovation is allowing Wal-Mart to stay competitive in the evolving digital retail space.
Over the last decade the retail giant has made numerous investments in developing innovative ways to meet the evolving shopping needs of their customers. In 2011 Wal-Mart launched @WalmartLabs, a division of the company dedicated to discovering and implementing new ways of improving the digital experience of their customers. Over the years @WalmartLabs has introduced dozens of digital innovations and continues to test new innovations constantly.
Amazon may be able to ship products directly to consumers’ homes, but so can Wal-Mart. Innovations in shipping capabilities allow Wal-Mart shoppers to not only ship products to their home from Walmart.com, but also ship from online to a store near them to pick up later, ship a product from a Wal-Mart store to their home, reserve a product at a store to pick up same day and even get same day delivery in some areas. Wal-Mart shoppers have a plethora of shipping and pickup options, all of which are easily available on Wal-Mart’s online and mobile platforms. These options allow customers to pick whichever option works best for them on any given day.
The “Save Money. Live Better” Promise
Other innovations improving the consumer experience include Wal-Mart’s Savings Catcher. This app allows user to enter any Wal-Mart product barcode and check to make sure they are paying (or paid) the lowest price when compared to other retailers. If the Savings Catcher finds a lower price anywhere online, they pay the customer the difference in price. Innovations like these reassure customers that they are paying the lowest price while strengthening the customer relationship.
In addition to innovations designed to improve the customer’s experience, Wal-Mart is also focusing on their media buyers. One example of innovation in this area is the launch of Wal-Mart Exchange in 2014; a platform that allows media buyers to better target and, in real-time, serve relevant ads to customers on Walmart.com. The platform also provides marketers access to SKU-level ad measurement, allowing their buyers to see the effectiveness of each ad. With both online and in-store customer data, Wal-Mart is in a position to provide their suppliers with more robust data than their competitors can.
The list of digital innovations at Wal-Mart goes on, including grocery pick, local inventory maps, and streamlining their mobile and online user interfaces. Amazon may be the current leader in e-commerce, but the combination of Wal-Mart’s stores, mobile and online platforms, and their emphasis on digital innovation puts them in a great place to continue to be a leader in retail far into the future.