How Walmart's Online Business is Staying Ahead of the Curve

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How Walmart's Online Business is Staying Ahead of the Curve

By Jamie Grill-Goodman - 09/01/2017

Walmart's recent e-commerce sales upsurge shows the retailer is innovating quickly to compete with its competition. More items available online and technology initiatives have been steering the big box retailer's success, as Walmart works fast and furiously to win online shoppers.  

Walmart customers responded to an expanded assortment of more than 67 million SKUs on Walmart.com, up more than 30% from the first quarter, and the retailer's online sales at Walmart U.S. grew 60% in its second quarter. Recent acquisitions, such as Moosejaw, Shoebuy and Bonobos, helped the big box retailer improve its assortment and provided category expertise in higher margin categories like shoes and apparel.

The company's e-commerce sales numbers include not only purchases that are shipped to a customer’s home, but also omnichannel transactions fulfilled in stores, such as Online Grocery and Pickup Today. Online grocery is now in more than 900 U.S. Walmart stores and the retailer recently noted it is expanding the service in many of markets around the world after seeing "strong results from the rollout."

Additionally, Walmart's recently announced partnership with Google will launch in late September, offering shoppers hundreds of thousands of items for voice shopping via Google Assistant, which stands to boost the company's e-commerce orders.

Walmart also plans to have 100 automated pickup towers in stores across the U.S. by the end of the year and will be further expanding Scan & Go within U.S. stores this year, technology that is already available in Sam’s Club locations.

The retailer also noted recently that initiatives like its Easy Reorder feature on walmart.com are why e-commerce sales were up. The new feature allows shoppers to repurchase the items they’ve bought most frequently before on a matter of seconds, integrating both in-store and online purchases.

"Our strategy is to make every day easier for busy families," said CEO Douglas McMillon. "To accomplish this, we continue our transformation to become more of a digital enterprise that moves with speed and agility. I’m encouraged by innovation in the business."

Part of the retailer's digital transformation involves testing last mile fulfillment methods, including associate delivery of walmart.com orders. It's also expanding its grocery delivery pilot to Orlando and Dallas, a service that allows shoppers to build an online basket and have an Uber driver deliver it to the customer’s location. Walmart even tested a grocery ATM this year. 

"We have tests going on with digital endless aisle shopping, robotics and image analytics to scan aisles for outs, and we’re using machine learning to assist our merchants with pricing," said McMillon.

Even in-store the retailer has been seeing increased traffic, having recently posted traffic growth of 1.3% in U.S. stores and comp traffic growth of more than 2% at Sam’s Club.

"Store associates are using better technology and processes to perform their tasks and we’re becoming more efficient," said McMillon. "Our training programs are fueling this progress as well. We’ve now opened 175 training academies and expect to have 200 operating by the end of the year."

As Amazon begins to incorporate Whole Foods into its business, we're sure to see more retail technology initiatives like these coming from Walmart as the retailer races to gain online shoppers' loyalty.