Commentary

As A Start, Home Is Where Walmart's Digital-Shopping Heart Is

Hard on the heels of revealing a disappointing quarter for its e-commerce growth, Walmart yesterday took the coverings off a plan to gussy up its online shopping experience for products such as sofas, beds, dinnerware and dining tables.

“Walmart says that in the next few weeks, Walmart.com customers will see a new destination page for home items, a breakdown of style choices ranging from ‘glam’ to ‘farmhouse,’ and more polished photos that give shoppers ideas about how to transform rooms in their apartment or house,” writes Charisse Jones for USA Today.

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“As a mass retailer, we know that customers shop differently across categories. Some categories are more transactional, like groceries and consumables, while others are more inspirational, like apparel and home. Today, we’re doubling down on the latter and unveiling a new digital shopping experience aligned with how customers naturally shop for home products,” writes Anthony Soohoo, Walmart U.S. eCommerce’s senior vice president and group general manager, home, in a post in the company’s newsroom.

“The new display is a step toward a broader revamp of Walmart.com that the retailer plans to unveil later this year.  Clothing will also receive a more vivid presentation, and the changes could entice shoppers at a time when Walmart has reported slowing online sales — news that rattled investors earlier this week,” USA Today’s Jones continues.

“Walmart doesn’t break out what portion of its sales are home goods, or how much of its overall assortment fits in this category. But it did say that it’s nearly doubled its assortment over the past year, aided by introductions of new furniture and home décor lines, like its IKEA-esque Scandinavian kids’ furniture, for example,” reports Sarah Perez for TechCrunch. “The new Home shopping site will also help showcase Walmart’s own private label and Walmart-exclusive brands, like Mainstays, Better Homes and Gardens and Pioneer Woman,” she adds. 

“Walmart U.S. e-commerce chief Marc Lore said in October that the company would ‘elevate the Walmart.com brand’ to lure more premium sellers to its website as it competes with retailers like Amazon.com and Target Corp.,” the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Robbie Neiswanger reminds us.

“Walmart previously announced a partnership to sell products from department store chain Lord & Taylor on its website, establishing a dedicated space that will debut this spring. The company also said it has doubled its home decor assortment over the past year,” he continues.

Walmart is targeting online sales growth of 40% in fiscal 2019,” points out CNBC.com's Lauren Thomas. But “earlier this week, Walmart's fiscal fourth-quarter earnings report revealed e-commerce growth was cooling off and its profit margins were being squeezed, again. Walmart shares tumbled more than 9% on the news, as investors feared the company might be losing steam in its ongoing battle with the king of e-commerce: Amazon,” she writes.

“’There are many demographics, especially younger and professional segments, for whom Walmart is not the destination of choice online,’ wrote Neil Saunders, GlobalData Retail managing director. ‘This isn’t because it doesn’t sell what they want or because the price or delivery options are suboptimal; instead, it is because they do not associate Walmart with online or they default to Amazon,’” MarketWatch’s Ciara Linnane and Tonya Garcia report. “Saunders suggests Walmart increase its marketing to resolve the issue.”

Meanwhile, Lore “could be eyeing his exit from Walmart,” several sources tell the New York Post’s Lisa Fickenscher. “Lore…isn’t necessarily seen as a good fit for Walmart’s corporate culture,” she continues.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he left,” Edward Jones analyst Brian Yarbrough tells her. “I’m not convinced that Marc Lore and the other members of Jet.com leadership team are truly in it for the long haul,” adds Brittain Ladd, a digital consultant and former Amazon executive. 

Fickenscher points out that the founder of Jet.com, as well as co-founder of Diapers.com parent Quidsi, “was noticeably absent from Walmart’s discussion of its digital slowdown on a Tuesday conference call.”

Then again, some folks just don’t like to be around negativity.

Jeffrey Immelt, the longtime CEO at General Electric, is a stellar case in point, as Thomas Gryta, Joann S. Lublin and David Benoit documented for the Wall Street Journal yesterday — proving that bad news doesn’t always travel fast.

 


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