Walmart is the largest retailer in the United States with over 5,000 stores nationwide. It ranks at the top of all U.S retail sales. But for some time, Amazon has been a looming competitor. Because of its success in brick-and-mortar, Walmart has mostly ignored its e-commerce business. With the amount of it’s market value, it’s really no wonder. However, the competition is growing and not slowing down. Walmart, on the other hand, has shown slower growth and could be completely taken over within a few years if changes aren’t made. That’s why the company has put forth a campaign to renovate its stores with new technology and its focus more on its e-commerce to keep up with the competition.
Evolution of Walmart Stores
Walmart has gone through quite a few changes in the past few years. Until recently, Walmart was the target of labor activists that criticized the retailer for sticking to the federal minimum wage of $7.25. Now it is offering it’s employees $11 per hour, in the hopes of showing an investment in its workforce. That is juxtaposed against the closing of 269 stores worldwide, though this is more about realizing the importance of downsizing in the age of the internet.
In August 2016, Walmart acquired Jet.com and incorporated founder Marc Lore as the head of Walmart.com. It was criticized as an excessive expenditure for a company that had yet to show any profitability. But according to statistics, a year after its acquisition and the company has seen an increase in e-commerce sales. Other acquisitions include fashion and apparel brands such as Modcloth and Bonobos to cater to the higher income bracket. Walmart has also increased its inventory to better fulfill consumer wants and to compete with Amazon.
Current Changes In Place
Walmart stores are starting to look a little different. From adding more online grocery pick up locations to its to new pick up towers, the retailer is definitely working on an omnichannel strategy. The first to pay attention to is the scan and go program. While it was only available for about 25 stores, Walmart intends to increase that number to over 100. “Scan and Go” allows customers to scan barcodes in a mobile app to be purchased without ever going around to a cashier. They can simply scan the item, pay through the app and be on their way. It seems a lot like a precursor to Walmart’s cashier-less store project. In a direct competition with Amazon, Walmart is developing this store through their talent incubator, Store No. 8.
Before we can walk into these stores and purchase anything with a few clicks of a button, Walmart has something else coming to stores. These are Pickup Towers, self-service kiosks that will drive down costs of shipping and bring consumers to the stores. The towers also have lockers that can hold larger items. They can hold up to 300 online orders, and all customers have to do is scan a bar code to get their purchases. These kiosks do not include grocery pick up but they are working on a tower specifically meant for perishables. Customers who opt to ship their products to a store rather than to their home, get a discount toward large items.
Walmart has apparently filed patents for several new tech devices such as shopping cart sensors, drones to assist customers and wearable watches that track customers. The robo-cart patent is for a shopping cart that can essentially drive itself around. Gone would be the days of taking carts back to their designated places once customers were done unloading their purchases. Not only that, but they could check inventory, customer shopping habits, store cleanliness and over-all store data. In addition to the robo-cart, Walmart also wants to implement drones that customers can request through their smartphone or other device. They could help with navigation or price checking. These patents are still being worked on, meaning we still must wait and see.
Walmart stands a chance of remaining the top retailer and to spread globally. To do so it must continue its push toward omnichannel shopping experience. By integrating online and in-store, it could match with Amazon once the right balance is found between the two. Walmart wants to focus on what it can do that Amazon and other online retailers, cannot. With its acquisition of Jet.com, and the focus to revitalize its brand as an entrepreneur and leader of online shopping, it can possibly earn its place as Amazon’s true competitor. The inability to adapt is what caused plenty of other retailers to collapse. After all according to Walmart’s CEO Doug McMillon,
“You’ve got to catch the wave. And to catch the wave, you’ve gotta be early.” But perhaps being right on time is just enough.