At the end of 2018, Walmart announced an impressive 43% increase in e-Commerce sales. This significant jump was largely fueled by investment in digital assets like its online marketplace, new partnerships with online brands and increased locations for online grocery order pick-up.
With an increasingly tech-driven strategy and the results to show for it, it appears that Walmart may have the cracked the code on Amazon’s formula for success, which prioritizes customer-driven tech investments.
Walmart’s sales growth and investments in tech initiatives show that we’ve entered a new digital age in retail, where customer-focused innovations aren’t coming from just one leading party. But while Walmart and Amazon make up the top realm of the industry, how can other retailers apply learnings from the retail giants’ success to their own business?
Walmart’s E-Commerce Rise
Walmart’s recent success can be traced to a few specific customer initiatives. Continuing its push for a more digital customer experience, the retailer recently unveiled its Intelligent Retail Lab, a space that will test use cases for AI to improve both employee and customer in-store experiences.
To take advantage of the hole in the toy market left by Toys ‘R’ Us’ 2017 closure, Walmart also recently launched its Walmart Toy Lab, where kids can use computers and tablets to test out products ahead of their broader release.
Walmart still significantly trails Amazon in market share. Amazon commands 49% of all e-Commerce sales, while Walmart makes up just 4%, according to eMarketer. But even a 4% market share signals that Walmart is operating strategically to evolve a tech-driven customer experience.
Amazon and Walmart’s innovative engagement methods have raised the bar across the board. For every retailer that doesn’t live up to the seamless standard of Amazon or Walmart, customers count it as a poor experience. Retailers that don’t commit the resources and time to keeping up with these changing customer expectations will feel the adverse effects.
How Retailers Can Think Like Walmart And Amazon
In ramping up your processes for the sake of meeting rising customer expectations, start the process by paying particular attention to how you go about two important aspects of the business: your partnerships and your employee experience.
Sometimes, it makes sense for a company to develop its own proprietary digital assets to fulfill a client need. Walmart and Amazon clearly have the resources to do so. However, for other retailers, it likely makes more sense to outsource these efforts, depending on the resources they have available.
Target, for example, entered the grocery deliver space by partnering with Shipt, a grocery delivery company. In this instance, Target needed to quickly enter the booming grocery delivery space to stay competitive as well as meet customer needs. Rather than pursuing the time-consuming course of developing, testing and rolling out a solution with existing internal resources, it made an intelligent and strategic acquisition to offer the beloved feature faster.
The employee experience also plays a strong role in helping retailers provide a stellar customer experience. In the retail sector, though, it’s often sidelined to product and sales-focused business priorities. But retailers should consider the cost of turnover, especially since the already-high rate (65%) will only grow alongside the burgeoning job market.
With these factors in mind, retailers should place an equal emphasis on the employee experience. This process can start with the sourcing and hiring of new hourly employees who will serve as the face of the business on the store floor. Streamlining these actions with the addition of AI and automation provides a more positive employee experience and increases productivity and engagement of those your customers directly rely on.
Retail tech giants like Amazon and Walmart are upping the stakes for retail as a whole. Their tech-driven features are redefining the e-Commerce and brick-and-mortar customer experiences, and retailers everywhere, regardless of size or specialization, will feel the similar expectations placed upon them by their own customers. Those that prioritize their own digital transformation initiatives earlier set themselves up to ride out the industry’s changing times, and foster greater customer loyalty while they’re at it.
Keith Ryu is the CEO and co-founder of Fountain, a hiring platform built for speed and scale that is backed by over $11M in venture capital. He is native to the Bay Area though he spent most of his childhood in Korea and Arizona. He’s passionate about the future of work, operations, and tech. Fountain is designed specifically to help address the challenges around high-volume, high-velocity and high-turnover recruiting within retail, delivery, food/beverage, manufacturing, hospitality, etc. The world’s most forward-thinking companies, including Uber, Safeway, Deliveroo, John Lewis and Grubhub rely on Fountain to power their large-scale employee hiring and contractor vetting operations. Since inception, teams across 50 countries have used Fountain to save millions of work-hours, communicate with more than 10MM+ applicants, and provide 700,000 real people with jobs.
Keith Ryu, Fountain