Walmart remains pleased with the progress of the Walmart+ membership program and will build its capabilities moving forward, said president and CEO Doug McMillon.
The No. 1 retailer views the program as an important component of its customer service and engagement strategy, driving added value thanks to the data that it brings in. While Walmart will make the program more robust, McMillon noted these changes will be unique based on the company’s own assets and capabilities.
“We see it as something we’ll just grow in time. We’ve got to build capacity for delivery, for example, and we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves as it relates to how many memberships we’re selling,” he said as part of a CES 2021 interview with Tiffany Moore, Consumer Technology Association SVP, political and industry affairs. “But it’s growing nonetheless and will be one important component of our strategy for a long time.”
Walmart’s investment dance in store automation is well documented, and this past year it’s accelerated the way it leverages technology throughout operations. Driving this has been a change in the way its merchants think and how its operators go to work, McMillon explained, as in addition to modernizing its tech stack, the company is also evolving how it works together.
While the company is drawing ideas internally from associates and leadership, it’s also broadening its perspective with insights from business partners, suppliers and other thought leaders, especially with regard to which technologies will be most impactful moving forward.
In citing artificial intelligence, robotics and 5G as technologies expected to impact the way people shop, McMillon noted that the future of how they all come together is more interesting than any single one.
“We’ve get better at forecasting demand, so artificial intelligence and the way we use data is really important. We have to get better at saving customers’ time, and we have to be able to personalize to do that, so we need to get better at the way we interact with customers as it relates to data,” he said, noting the importance of securing consumer trust.
Expect Walmart’s investments in healthcare to also grow as it pivots from providing urgent care services to a more preventative approach. And while it will continue to offer an in-person component, investments in digital health services and how it leverages data will also expand.
It will also continue to grow its diversity and inclusion efforts, choosing to use the killing of George Floyd as a moment to accelerate progress and use its scale to extend efforts beyond its own walls. As part of this, Walmart is changing processes related to compensation and advancement, and increasing the documentation of its progress.
“You tell yourself we’re doing what we should be doing [in D&I] … and then something like this happens. … There’s lots of things inside the company that were changing and accelerating, and this gave us the opportunity to be more bold and aggressive and have difficult conversations with people,” he said.
Walmart is also using learnings from its sustainability efforts — it’s shifting efforts to become a regenerative company — to make policy changes to generate more racial equity, such as working more closely with Black-owned banking and advertising firms.
In offering advice to other businesses seeking to effect real change in racial equality, McMillon noted not only the importance of educating and inserting oneself into difficult conversations, but also the power of data.
“Put the business to work. We are good as business leaders at using data and having metrics. Take your data, create transparency, set some appropriate objectives [with your legal teams], and go to work."
He added: “This is really about growing the whole pie. This is not a zero-sum game where some people win and some people lose. Diverse teams win. Inclusive environments are more successful. If you grow the company and grow the pie, everybody benefits even if you’re a white male like myself. … There is no substitute for having the leaders involved.”