Part 3 in the series on supermarket disruptors.
What’s happening with Walmart? While doing an online search, I recently stumbled upon this headline from Forbes, “Walmart Moves from Traditional Retailer to High-Tech Innovator.” I’ve always viewed Walmart as a very traditional, brick and mortar retail chain that is best known for low prices so the “high-tech innovator” descriptor surprised me. What has changed? One word describes it best – Amazon.
The main difference between Walmart and Amazon is that 90% of the US population is within 10 miles of a Walmart. But brick and mortar can’t compete with consumers, especially Millennials, demand for online convenience.
That’s why for the past two years, Walmart has been making a giant technology leap forward with a series of strategic acquisitions starting with Jet.com in 2016, under whose leadership they have purchased e-commerce startups across footwear and fashion. This includes Bonobos, Moosejaw, ShoeBuy and ModCloth to name a few.
Launched in 2016, Jet‘s main customer base is the urban millennial — a slightly more affluent demographic than the typical Walmart customer which explains the purchase of these ecommerce sites who have a similar focus.
Jet grew so rapidly that it raised $500 million in venture capital funding and only 13 months after the site’s launch it was purchased by Walmart. The influence of Jet’s technology has become more and more apparent with these digital changes:
- Walmart customers can now take advantage of two-day shipping without paying an annual subscription.
- Shoppers no longer need to carry their wallets to check out at one of its 4,600-plus U.S. stores with the nationwide rollout of its Walmart Pay system, which as an add-on to its mobile app. Shoppers can link their credit or debit cards, prepaid accounts or Wal-Mart gift cards to their payments.
- This same system has also eliminated the physical paper trail now required of shoppers using its money transferring services,
- Customers can refill and manage their prescriptions from their mobile devices, skipping the pharmacy counter line.
- The continued rollout of Wal-Mart’s online grocery business lets shoppers order food online and have it loaded into their cars at a nearby store.
- Wal-Mart has also started testing a Scan & Go technology that allows customers to scan items from their mobile devices as they add them to their cart.
- Soon, Walmart.com will feature new “smart cart” technology used widely on Jet.com. The platform offers shoppers cheaper prices if they pack more items together in one box, use a debit card when paying for purchases or opt out of returns.
- Walmart recently applied for a patent for a system that allows customers to preview food items selected for their online orders through pictures, according to CB Insights. Referred to as a “Fresh Online Experience,” the system would use 3D scanning to give shoppers the ability to choose the items for their orders.
Who knew that this very traditional retail giant could so quickly become “Walmart HQ,” turning to advanced technology to compete in a fast-changing marketplace?
Look for more updates as we continue to monitor these supermarket disruptor trends.