Walmart Seeks an Edge with Mobile
When it comes to online sales, it's no surprise that, in the face of online retail giants such as Amazon, the superstore chain Walmart has struggled. But according to Walmart executive Gibu Thomas, the company may soon overcome this hurdle as they integrate their digital retail strategies with the traditional ones that have served them so well.
At the heart of this revamped approach are smartphones, which are rapidly becoming the staple of e-commerce for any business. By tracking browsing history along with actual movement patterns, more companies are able to deliver personalized shopping recommendations, coupons and advertisements, which incidentally are often sent back to the customer through that same phone.
“Almost every facet of our lives have been transformed by a smartphone,” said Thomas, senior VP of mobile and digital for Walmart Global eCommerce at Tuesday’s Open Mobile Summit in San Francisco. “But when you walk into a store—and that’s where 90 percent of retail happens—it’s like this place that is stuck in time. The possibility of mobile bringing the Web to the store is incredibly disruptive.”
Already Walmart has become synonymous with retail data mining and supply chain refinement, but the company has so far left mobile on the table—that is, until now, thanks to the company’s new mobile app.
“Another way to look at this is that e-commerce brought the stores to the web, but mobile brings the web to the store,” said Thomas.
To drive toward that goal, Walmart is adding a shopping list feature to its mobile app, and hopes to bring self check-out to smartphones via a barcode scanner. This way shoppers can scan items as they pick them up and simply scan a single barcode from their phone into the self-checkout to save time.
If they’re successful, the superstore chain hopes to tap into revenue that, for the time being, is completely off-limits to online-only stores like Amazon.
And Walmart has good reason to be excited about the potential revenue growth. During his talk, Thomas referenced a Deloitte report saying mobile-influenced retail purchases will be a $689 billion market by 2016, compared to the mere $327 that e-commerce will generate. And since Walmart has found that half of its customer base already consists of smartphone users, the company’s chances of success are looking good.