Inside Walmart’s Quest to Become the Go-To Retailer for Pickup and Delivery

Inside Walmart’s Quest to Become the Go-To Retailer for Pickup and Delivery

By  |  January 19, 2021  |  Uncategorized  |  No Comments

Walmart confirmed it is not advertising in the Super Bowl this year, which means its 2020 debut will remain the U.S. retail giant’s sole appearance as an official big game advertiser for at least another year.

As an essential business, Walmart is among the few retailers that truly thrived in 2020 despite the pandemic. And now, as uncertainty continues for many American consumers, the retailer is hoping to carve out an even more meaningful role in their lives.

Value-based messaging

At the National Retail Federation’s annual event last week, Ira Kalish, chief global economist at Deloitte, said he expects the economy to experience slow growth for most of 2021—and we’ll continue to see “substantial disruption” in the consumer market.

“Our hope, of course, is that with the introduction of a vaccine that we will see by the end of the year a significant pickup in economic activity,” he said.

In response, Walmart’s executive vice president and chief customer officer, Janey Whiteside, noted Walmart customers are “absolutely not immune to the economic slowdown … [and] may even be disproportionately impacted by it.”

In fact, she cited figures from November that showed almost half of Walmart customers were worried about the economy and 40% did not expect a speedy recovery. That, Whiteside said, means Walmart’s focus on everyday low prices “will continue to play a major role with customers.”

“I think that notion of saving money to live better right now is probably more pertinent than ever,” she added.

300% growth

Indeed, the use of services like pickup and delivery increased dramatically in 2020. In Q1, for example, Walmart saw 300% growth in those services—and four times as many new customers using them.

That’s in part because of Walmart’s sizable footprint—the retailer likes to remind us its 4,800 U.S. stores put it within 10 miles of 90% of Americans. But, Whiteside said, it also enabled Walmart to easily go omnichannel by fulfilling orders from nearby stores if an item is out of stock in a distribution center. It also allows Walmart to offer its Express Delivery service, which fulfills online orders in a matter of hours.

“Being able to manage our inventory no matter where it is, I think, is really an advantage for us,” she said.

Whiteside also believes stores will continue to play an important role in commerce as consumers still crave an experiential component in shopping. That’s why Walmart is thinking about what the next iteration of the in-store experience will look like when customers want to be in stores again, as well as how to use them to become the go-to player for pickup and delivery services.

Data-based recommendations

Meanwhile, Walmart is also thinking about how to marry all of the data it has on its customers to understand them—and how to serve them—better. This includes data from brick-and-mortar and online retail, as well as its pharmacies, health and wellness and financial services businesses. Data from all of these sources provides a well-rounded view of customers, who the retailer can then offer “more meaningful services,” according to Whiteside.

“Think about our ability to know if, with the right permissions, that somebody is gluten free, or has celiac [disease] or has a particular health concern,” she said. “We can marry that together with health data … [and] food recommendations in a really interesting way.”

In-home services

While she noted consumers generally have pretty visceral reactions to in-home retail services—such as the in-refrigerator delivery option it first began testing in 2017—Whiteside said Walmart continues to test in-home services even in the pandemic, even though it’s limited to doorsteps and garages now. It’s really just the next step beyond ride-sharing services, she said.

About the Author: Lisa Lacy

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