Wal-Mart Taps Online Unit Head For Brand Strategy

Wal-Mart, which has been shaking up its marketing ranks for months, announced the latest changes yesterday. The company's most senior online executive, Carter Cast, was named to head U.S. business strategy. Raul Vazquez, who was CMO of Walmart.com, succeeds Cast as president and CEO of Walmart.com.

Both Cast and Vazquez will report to Eduardo Castro-Wright, president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores' U.S. division, the company said. The new appointments will "build upon our strength and ability to provide a comprehensive, multi-channel experience for our customers," the company said.

Last month, Walmart.com was ranked No. 4 in terms of traffic among U.S. retailers, according to comScore Media Metrix. (It followed eBay, Amazon, and Apple.) Wal-Mart doesn't break out its online sales, but analysts estimate them to total between $1 billion and $3 billion.

And while that's big, many don't believe it's big enough. "Even if their sales are $2 billion," said Sucharita Mulpuru, senior e-commerce analyst for Forrester Research. "Wal-Mart is such a behemoth. And for less than 1% of sales to come from online shoppers, you can see that it is struggling with what role the Web has in its business. While $2 billion is a significant portion of the total online pie, and certainly makes it among the top 10, it should be bigger, maybe even twice what it is."

It doesn't help that the online unit isn't even at the company's Bentonville, Ark., headquarters, but in Brisbane, Calif.

"It's kind of a Catch-22. Until you are a bigger part of the business, you don't get the resources you need. That's a big impediment to becoming a true multi-channel retailer," Mulpuru said.

Last month, Wal-Mart shifted former CMO John Fleming into a top merchandising role. Stephen Quinn succeeded him as CMO.

Former Target executive Fleming had hired Julie Roehm as senior vice president of advertising. Roehm and her associate, Sean Womack, were subsequently dismissed from the company in a scandal surrounding the selection of DraftFCB as the Wal-Mart advertising agency. That choice was rescinded and The Martin Agency won the assignment in a repitch.

Roehm and Womack have formed a marketing consultancy centered on the concept of Marketing 2.x and are making public appearances to discuss it.

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