Part I – Walmart´s recent drive for customer centricity
We noted with interest this month that Walmart seems to be taking customer centricity very seriously indeed. According to Fortune, the US retail giant´s first Chief Customer Officer, Janey Whiteside, will have the job of “keeping the customer at the center” of all its operations. She will oversee Walmart’s new customer acquisition efforts and ensure the elimination of friction points for customers throughout their lifecycle with the retailer.
A real battle is brewing between Walmart and its incumbent rival Amazon, who was founded on the core principle of “customer obsession” and focuses on creating seamless and relevant experiences that embed the retailer in its customers´ daily lives. To quote Amazon´s founder Jeff Bezos, “The best customer service is if the customer doesn’t need to call you, doesn’t need to talk to you. It just works.”.
Walmart is well aware that its online customer experience is rated well below that of Amazon. Even though Walmart’s US e-commerce sales accelerated last year, their performance has been disappointing so far this year, with only about 4 percent of its $500bn annual sales coming from ecommerce.
The new Walmart website
Walmart´s website was relaunched in May 2018 and features local and personalised elements linked to its 4,700 store locations in the US.
Walmart has also understood that customers shop differently depending on what they are purchasing. Customers shopping for groceries want an efficient and cost-effective purchasing process, while those thinking about making major purchases for significant life stage events, such as the birth of a baby, want to be inspired while browsing. Its „3D Virtual Shopping Tour“ allows customers to browse a VR version of a small living space and be inspired to buy items they see in it.
The Walmart app creates shopping lists, allows the user to check online and in-store prices, pay for purchases in store with Walmart Pay, order prescription refills, and save time when picking up an order by using its mobile check-in feature. Customers can also easily reorder items they buy regularly and use the app’s Savings Catcher to get money back on purchases. The app also tells customers if the store has the product in stock and where it is located.
Digiday recently reported that Walmart hopes to win where Amazon has tried and failed so far. Major FMCG brands that sell on Walmart.com can embed ‘Buy’ buttons from Walmart.com into influencers’ blog posts. This should help with unfavorable perceptions of the quality of Walmart’s products, despite the company’s long-held reputation for low prices.
Adding influencer content should allow Walmart to drive traffic by appealing to younger shoppers who are also attracted by the addition of a new fashion shop on its site. It features premium brands from Lord & Taylor, the acquisition of high-end clothing retailers such as Bonobos and Modcloth and a new personal shopping service, Jetblack.
A more affordable content streaming service?
Online media reports suggest that Walmart is even considering entering the highly competitive content streaming arena. It seems to see an opportunity to undercut Netflix and Amazon on price. Apparently, Walmart is thinking of providing a service that will be priced below US$8 per month. Amazon charges US$8.99 a month in the US for its Prime Video service. Walmart is also considering a free ad-supported service which would prove a powerful tool for communicating with its customers and learn further about their interests, needs and preferences.
Partnership with Google on voice activation devices
Walmart is offering the widest range yet of any retailer selling on Google Assistant. Existing customers can link their Walmart account to Google and get personalised suggestions based on previous online and in-store transactions for a quicker and easier shopping process.
Walmart is doing everything it possibly can, not only to retain its spot at the pinnacle of American retail, but also to secure its position as a future retail market leader. These recent innovations on behalf of its customer base, as well as Janey Whiteside´s appointment to Walmart´s C-Suite level, see the retail giant affirming its commitment to customer centricity as a vital strategy for growth.
In part two of this series, find out how Walmart is leveraging the power of digital innovation to optimise its infrastructure to serve its customers‘ needs wherever and however they choose to shop.
About the author: Cecilia Floridi is a Customer Management expert based in Düsseldorf, Germany. She is also the Managing Director of DataLab GmbH.