Inside Walmart’s Best-Laid Consumer Tech Plans

More laptops, TVs, brand names … and floor space
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Walmart U.S. e-commerce chief Marc Lore (left) with digital acceleration senior VP Jane Ewing and president/CEO Greg Foran at a shareholders' week presentation.   

Walmart U.S. e-commerce chief Marc Lore (left) with digital acceleration senior VP Jane Ewing and president/CEO Greg Foran at a shareholders' week presentation.   

No Walmart shareholders’ week would be complete without a walkthrough of the chain’s laboratory store in Rogers, Ark., and a stopover in the CE department.

This year’s annual event, held last week in the vicinity of company headquarters in Bentonville, was no different.

There, media were tipped off to ongoing updates to the tech section (labeled Entertainment in Walmart stores) that include a more open floor plan, an even heavier emphasis on laptop computers and TVs, and a continued effort at amassing tier-one brands at affordable prices, CNBC reported.

Change is essential for Walmart’s CE business if the discounter is to remain a leader in a core but sluggish category that was ceded to Amazon. Indeed, while the No. 1 e-tailer saw its tech sales grow 4 percent last year, and Best Buy’s ratcheted up nearly 6 percent, Walmart’s electronics revenue slipped 1 percent, leaving it entrenched in the No. 3 CE slot, TWICE reported.

See: The 2018 Top 100 CE Retailers Report

Elsewhere during its shareholders week review, Walmart touted:

  • an updated shopping app offering in-store maps, item locations and a streamlined returns process;
  • a new store dock conveyor system that automatically scans and sorts merchandise as it comes off the trailer.
A product's-eye view of Walmart's new FAST Unloader, which streamlines the offload process at store loading docks.

A product's-eye view of Walmart's new FAST Unloader, which streamlines the offload process at store loading docks.

On the digital front, the company announced the launch of its shop-by-text concierge service Jetblack, while U.S. e-commerce president Marc Lore, in a chat with Walmart U.S. president/CEO Greg Foran, said that leveraging the company’s 5,000 domestic stores as e-tail distribution centers is key to future success — especially when 90 percent of the population lives within 10 miles of one.

“I think the customer is demonstrating to us how ambidextrous they really are,” Foran said of the cross-channel strategy. “They see it all as one Walmart.”

He added, “In five to seven years, a converged retail experience is the sweet spot for us all, so we better be reasonably nimble, but not lose sight of principles” — including some old-fashioned ones like having the right items in stock at the right price.

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