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October 28, 2020 31 min

How The World’s Largest Company Can Be The Most Innovative

From its beginnings as a discount store with a simple way of helping people save money and live better lives, Walmart, with 2.2 million employees serving 265 million customers weekly and annual revenues over a half-trillion dollars, has become not only the world’s largest retailer, but the quintessential example of the traditional retail approach.

Now, they are looking to turn that approach on its ear and reboot the future.

Tom Ward, Walmart's very thoughtful Senior Vice President of Consumer Product, and a key figure behind Walmart’s “digital makeover,” joined me for a “look-under-the-hood” episode of The Reboot Chronicles. Tom took me through how Walmart today is running on all cylinders and how they are driving some serious growth initiatives and timely partnerships that are pivotal to their future.

Juggling a Bizarre Christmas Season

I think 2020 will be the strangest Christmas season we have ever seen, morphing Black Friday into hybrid events—which started in October with Prime Day and will last all season long! Before the pandemic, people would line up and crowd into stores, but now companies must make sure that the way customers engage and shop with them is smart and safe—but still easy.

With contactless delivery becoming a prerequisite across industries, people have become reliant on online grocery delivery and pickup options to safely obtain necessities. In light of this and in preparation for the holiday season, Walmart, for the first time, will be activating curbside pickup at a mass scale.

But Tom says the retailer knows the in-store experience is still a significantly important experience. Certainly, as the omnichannel approach has changed forever, retailers must bridge online and physical worlds to include hybrid touch-point solutions. Instead of one big Black Friday event, they have three so far and will be extending hours, which should help flow control for you late night shoppers like me.

Target ‘s CEO Brian Cornell has echoed this, following Walmart’s lead to close for Thanksgiving Day, stating that they are taking a “completely new approach to Black Friday, minimizing the event-day shopping behavior that is typical for this time of year.” You can now check wait times online,  make reservations  at Target.com/line, use  contactless checkout and make last minute pickup time changes.

Tom in our conversation frequently referred to the focus on solving customers' problems, regardless of the channel that they select. To that end, Walmart's app is going to play a leading role in the physical shopping experience—whether it's about navigation, scanning, drive by pickup or payment—helping to remove pieces of friction that traditionally slowed the retailer down.

There is much more going on here, with many co-created innovations coming to a store near you soon...one common denominator seems to be a need for speed! "I think it is going to a huge lift in speed and convenience as a focus. I'm always excited and keen to see what the next innovation is going to be around the corner, and whom we can partner with to accelerate that," says Tom.



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