Innovation

Walmart.com is Getting a New Look

I’m very excited to share that over the coming months, we’re making some substantial updates to Walmart.com, overhauling familiar features and introducing new ones. I’d like to share some of the details of this new Walmart.com in this post.

We’ve revised the site from the ground up with a simple, bold, and modern design that sings on any form factor, be it a tablet, a laptop, or a big desktop display. We started our new design from the baseline of small tablets, optimizing it for that form factor, and then carefully considered how each area of the site could adapt itself to take advantage of larger screens with different input mechanisms (i.e., fingers versus mice) when available (I’ll talk more about our work on smartphones in a later post).

Speaking of adaptation, this updated Walmart.com now tailors itself much more to our individual customers, personalizing much more of the content than ever before based on many aspects of a customer’s history with us. We’ve also increased the quality and frequency of the personalized item recommendations we make throughout the site. These recommendations may be based on a customer’s past searches or purchases on the site, but we can also suggest items that other customers typically buy along with the item a customer is shopping. We’re able to deliver much more relevant suggestions because we are now able to draw from the massive trove of data from both online and store purchases.

We’re also continuing to integrate our digital and physical experiences to help customers easily move across our site and our stores. One way we’re doing that is through the new “My Local Store” area of the site that enables our customers to explore the features of their nearby Walmart stores, including a listing of the latest Rollbacks, a selection of coupons and more. Coupled with an all-new Store Finder, using Walmart.com to plan store visits is better than ever before.

The changes I’ve described above (and many more) are already live with nearly half of our daily online shoppers and will be rolled out to all of our customers soon. I’d like to tell you about a few more updates that we’ll release shortly thereafter.

When our customers click on an item to see more details, they’ll soon experience our updated item page, which features an increased focus on product imagery, simpler presentation of buying options and purchasing opportunities from our growing marketplace of third-party sellers, and improved item description content and user reviews.

Walmart.com is known for its fantastic “bundle” values, which give customers the opportunity to buy related products together for savings, and in some cases, to configure their own combinations of products. Coupled with this new item page is a greatly improved bundles experience, making them easier to discover and configure.

We’re also going to release a significant revision to our checkout process, which will become a simple, easy-to-use three-step flow that fits on a single page from start to finish.

The biggest change of all is one that our customers can’t see: an all-new e-commerce platform under the covers that we’ve been building from the ground up over the past two years. This platform fully modernizes the technology we’re using to build Walmart.com and includes our vaunted search engine, our sophisticated personalization and recommendation engines, and other state-of-the-art components that lay the foundation for future updates to come.

While we’re all thrilled for our customers to experience this new Walmart.com, updating the experience that millions of customers depend on isn’t something we take lightly. So we’re therefore being very deliberate about how we roll out these changes, taking it a step at a time and working closely with customers to get their input and making improvements as we go.

There are many more features and dimensions to this new rollout that I didn’t go into in this post, and I look forward to providing more updates as we go forward. Most of all, I’m excited about how all of us here at Walmart will continue to make shopping faster, easier and more fun for our customers.

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Opportunity

A Brother, a Sister, and Success in Parallel

Editor’s Note: With this post, we follow up with two associates who previously shared their stories on video.

Proximity brought Nicholas Qualman to Walmart, but his personal drive has since taken him far.

In 1998, the then 16-year-old was working for a fast-food chain located in the parking lot of the Walmart store in his hometown of Marinette, Wisconsin. He was tired of making burgers and wanted to work the counter, but with no positions open, he had to look elsewhere for a new challenge.

He applied at Walmart and was hired as a cashier, and he hasn’t stopped moving since. 

By the time he was featured in this 2011 video, he’d earned 10 promotions. After that, he lost count.

“I’ve had many careers within the same company,” he said, reciting every title he has held, which comes to about 16.

His ambition has taken him from cashier to department manager to a role leading education for other associates and many – many – points in between. In the summer of 2015, he began helping to support the rollout and day-to-day operations of online grocery, which includes store pickup and home delivery – a job that he says is his favorite thus far.

“It’s a completely new way of us serving the customer,” he said. “I equate it with being the supercenter of this generation. It’s a game changer for stores and for our customers.”

As Nick moved up in the company, he also moved around. “One of the great things is you get to experience different people and the company in different geographies,” he said.

He transferred from Northeast Wisconsin to Minneapolis for college, then worked in Sacramento; San Diego; Los Angeles; Princeton, New Jersey; Boston; and Scottsdale, Arizona. He now calls San Bruno, California, home.

Like Brother, Like Sister

Nick’s drive can only be matched by that of his sister, Jessica Crow. It took her only five years to do what he did in 17 years, Nick said with pride and a bit of brotherly frustration.

“We’re kind of in competition,” he said, “and I’ve got to tell you, I’m struggling to keep ahead. She’s told me several times she wants my job.”

Jessica joined the military after college and served in Iraq and Afghanistan. When she returned to the States, she toured the country with the Pentagon to share her experiences.

Despite what she’d gained in the military, finding a satisfying job in the private sector was difficult, Nick said. She worked in logistics but didn’t feel happy or challenged. That’s when Nick offered to share her resume within Walmart. But, he told her he wouldn’t push it: Getting hired was up to her.

It wasn’t long before Jessica was offered the position of developmental store manager. She made it to store manager in three months and moved to a new store after a year and half. A few promotions later, she is now a divisional manager – also surpassing the story she shared in this 2013 video.

After talking about his sister, Nick was quick to point out, “My story isn’t unique – it’s one of many, many stories of Walmart associates. Not everyone has had a chance to tell their story.”

Nick doesn’t want his story to end here. He achieved his last goal of joining the e-commerce team, and now he’s setting his sights on Walmart International, the one area he says he hasn’t yet touched. For now, Nick sees himself sticking with online grocery for the next five years or more – if he can keep his sister at bay. “I’m just worried about my job,” he joked.

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Innovation

How Lab 415-C is Changing the Shopping Experience

Technology is changing the way people live.

At Walmart’s Lab 415-C, we look for disruptive, innovative technology that has the potential to change the way people shop. But not just change that part of their lives – make it better.

From augmented reality to robotics, our team discovers and tests emerging technology that powers the shopping experience our customers want. In fact, we’re even named after an early innovation in Walmart’s heritage: Sam Walton’s 415-C airplane, which he used to scout real estate from the sky (a business-growth tactic that was unheard of in the 1950s).

How do we bring these innovations to our customers and associates? It starts with research. You wouldn’t buy a car without researching its capabilities, safety and reliability, right? We research between 700-750 technologies a year and make sure we know the technology’s maturity, use cases, comparisons and how it can improve shopping for customers. We look at everything from technology that helps associates run stores more efficiently to capabilities in the internet of things (connected devices that communicate without human interaction, such as a smart thermostat).

But what good is research if it isn’t shared with others? That’s where our showcasing team comes in. More than 5,000 people come through Lab 415-C each year. Our showcasing team helps plan discussions, brainstorms and events within Walmart and the greater entrepreneurial and academic community to accelerate how we find innovative technology.

Testing technologies for how they’ll work within Walmart is another aspect of Lab 415-C’s capabilities. We’ve tested technologies internationally, at local stores and within our lab at Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. Failing fast is key, so we don’t see failure as a roadblock; we see it as a way to finesse the solution to fit Walmart’s needs.

An important way we find solutions that fit our customers’ needs is by sourcing innovations from technology suppliers. This October, we are doing that in a big way through our Technology Innovation Open Call, an event where our leaders will meet with companies creating the latest technology for retail, logistics, big data, security and social media.  

Our open call event is a great opportunity for companies to pitch their innovations to the largest retailer in the world. I can’t wait to see what ideas and inventions we’ll discover! Together we will transform the shopping experience.

Submission deadline for potential selection in the Technology Innovation Open Call is July 22, 2016, or the first 250 submissions. For details and an application, click here.

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Business

What is Seamless Shopping? Q&A with CEO Doug McMillon

The following conversation with Walmart CEO Doug McMillon is excerpted from our 2016 Annual Report, which was released today. Read the report.

Q: We’re now living in a new period of retail disruption, largely driven by rapid technological advances, and that change is likely to accelerate even further. What does the future look like for Walmart?

A: Our work starts and ends with the customer. Technology has changed customer expectations. Customers used to compare us with the store down the street; now they compare us with the best online shopping experience. And beyond retail, they compare us with every business they interact with in their lives. They compare our pickup experience to the speed and friendliness of the best drive-through. They compare our checkout process to the ease of paying with an app.

Customers should be able to shop on their own terms – in a great store or club, with a quick pickup stop on the way home from work, or with items reliably arriving at the front door. And customers want to have some money left over to put toward their priorities: an experience together as a family, a special gift every once in a while, or savings for a rainy day.

Retail is not just about putting items on a shelf anymore. It’s about fighting for our customers, cutting out the hassles and advocating for them on price, too. We’re moving beyond just selling products to being the brand customers rely on to make their lives simpler and more meaningful as they save money.

Q: You’ve mentioned “seamless shopping” before. What does that mean, and how will Walmart deliver?

A: It starts with unparalleled assets that only Walmart has – our 2.3 million people; more than 11,500 retail locations; e-commerce websites and apps; and a dynamic, optimized supply chain. But it also requires new capabilities and fresh thinking.

This includes new digital tools for customers and frontline associates, as well as back-end software and platform work that benefits the entire enterprise. The use of data, algorithms, advanced forecasting capabilities – and more – is of extreme strategic significance.

We will put these pieces together in a way no one else can.

Ultimately, customers don’t care about what channel they’re shopping in, or about how we deliver them a product or service. They simply know they’re shopping with Walmart.

Q: What is Walmart already doing to make progress against this seamless shopping strategy?

A: To help our associates succeed and better serve our customers, we’ve made big changes – including investing approximately $2.7 billion over two years in higher wages, education and training to make Walmart U.S. a better place to work and shop. We’re already seeing positive results: our fourth quarter of fiscal 2016 marked six consecutive quarters of positive comps and five straight quarters of positive traffic at Walmart U.S. Everything we’re doing in omnichannel depends on customers having great interactions with us in our stores.

We're also accelerating e-commerce and technology advances globally. We expanded Online Grocery shopping to new markets, ramped up in-store and in-club pickup, fully acquired the Chinese online retailer Yihaodian, and began to add new mobile services such as Walmart Pay. We developed a technology platform that we can scale across the business. We improved our fulfillment capabilities with new centers that are helping us get orders to customers’ doors faster and more efficiently.

Q: It’s clear what these strategic investments mean for customers. How will they affect associates and the communities where Walmart operates?

A: As we work to win with our customers, we will also create a great place to work. We will create tremendous opportunities for people from all walks of life, with all kinds of skill sets and education levels. We’re striving to create a true meritocracy. No matter where you start from or what your unique and special characteristics are, you can fulfill your potential here. We believe in opportunity and that hard work, dedication and talent should be rewarded.

We will also use our size, mindset and policies and help make the world a better place. We create opportunity throughout our global supply chain – on farms and in factories, by buying more from women-owned businesses, by hiring veterans and by strengthening the retail industry workforce.

We work to be more sustainable, both in our own operations and in our supply chain. We have three big goals: creating zero waste, running on 100 percent renewable energy and selling products that sustain people and the environment. And we give back to the communities we serve – supporting American manufacturing, preparing for and responding to natural disasters and fighting hunger.

Q: What does this growth plan mean for investors?

A: We will win with a differentiated, disruptive strategy and a foundation of operational excellence. As we do, we believe shareholders will benefit by receiving above-average returns.

Although this will be another year of foundational investments, we believe we will soon be growing faster than the retail market. We are a growth company; we just happen to be a large one.

The road ahead will not always be easy, but by being customer focused, hungry, fast and accountable, we will win and have a good time doing it.

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Sustainability

In eCommerce Packaging, Sometimes More Equals Less

About a year ago, Walmart assembled a team from all over the company to focus on ways we could continue improving the online shopping experience. The feedback we received was tremendously helpful, but there was a surprise. An overwhelming majority of customers took it upon themselves to elaborate on an unsolicited topic: The size of our boxes.

Over and over again, our customers expressed a desire for us to reduce our packaging. That’s what they were talking about, so we immediately shifted our focus to follow their lead. And that shift has created the potential for huge results.

In the world of e-commerce, several factors have to be taken into account when reducing packaging. Because these items are being shipped great distances and handled multiple times, we must ensure the proper amount of cushion and protection. Ultimately, it’s about the product arriving at its destination undisturbed.

Through data analysis and extensive testing of potential solutions, we’ve developed a way to improve cardboard box utilization by more than 30%, without sacrificing product protection. If scaled over our entire e-commerce operation in the U.S., this effort has the potential to reduce cardboard box consumption by 7.2 million cubic feet annual, roughly enough to fill 82 Olympic-size swimming pools. It also translates into the ability to pack more products into the tractor-trailers we put on the road.

We took everything from order trends and history, to the size of boxes used at our fulfillment centers, into account. We developed several new box sizes and put them to the test – first with a couple of hundred orders, then with 10,000 orders. Then we piloted the program across an entire fulfillment center and, ultimately, concluded we could maximize efficiency by expanding our assortment of box sizes from 12 to 27.

Soon, we’ll implement the program at a second e-commerce fulfillment center and, eventually, across the organization. But the key to success will be our ability to customize the program to the needs and orders of every facility. In fact, this program will have to be continuously monitored and adjusted to meet changing needs. What is achievable at one facility with an assortment of 27 boxes may require an assortment of 40 boxes at another. And we’re up to that challenge.

The bottom line is, we recognized an opportunity by listening to our customers, and we acted on it. Great things happen when you take time to listen.

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