The retailer is partnering with Adobe as it opens up its tech services to other retailers conducting online sales.

As Marc Lore steps down from his role leading e-commerce at Walmart after more than four years, it marks a milestone juncture for the retailer. 

The founder, who joined Walmart Inc. after it acquired his company in 2016 for $3.3 billion, will be transitioning to a strategic adviser role, a part-time advisory position that he is expected to hold until September, according to the company. 

Lore’s move follows a year of landmark sales and e-commerce growth for Walmart, which has positioned itself as an all-encompassing megastore during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. To process high volumes of orders coming in as other retailers were on lockdown, Walmart deployed workers — store sales staff, delivery drivers and employees filling orders and unloading goods — as well as technology it had spent several years developing and investing in. 

“Those areas where Walmart has seen so much significant growth, I would definitely attribute those kinds of offerings to Marc, and the know-how that came along by acquiring Jet,” said Terry Esper, associate professor of logistics at the Ohio State University Fisher College of Business.  

The acquisition in 2016 was a major step for the brick-and-mortar retailer, which had begun telegraphing to Wall Street that it was banking on its online capabilities going forward. 

Lore and the Jet team are generally seen as having had a significant role in catalyzing the growth of Walmart’s digital infrastructure, and in integrating its online business with a brick-and-mortar footprint comprising more than 5,300 stores. 

Those investments culminated in accelerating online sales over the past year of the COVID-19 pandemic, as Walmart expanded customer services including curbside pickup and launched Walmart+, a subscription delivery service that competes with the likes of Amazon Prime. 

Walmart’s chief executive officer Doug McMillon outlined as much in a message to staff on Friday, tying Lore’s role at the company to a range of projects since he joined, including the redesign of the Walmart website, the expansion of its fulfillment network, and introduction of new delivery options, including same-day and next-day delivery in addition to two-day delivery. McMillon also alluded to Lore’s role in changing the culture at Walmart to implement a shift in emphasis on building its online infrastructure. 

“We knew we needed time to build and scale the e-commerce business before combining our teams, and because of the progress we’ve all made, and the mind-set we’ve all developed these past few years, we were able to successfully merge our teams last year,” McMillon wrote. 

“Since the Jet acquisition, we’ve seen our e-commerce growth accelerate — including rapid growth in our online grocery business,” he wrote. “Marc’s leadership helped ensure we were positioned to respond to the demand driven by the pandemic this year.” 

Walmart’s investment strategy to improve its technology and expand its customer base has also been marked by a string of acquisitions, with Lore said to shape that strategy. Whether it has always panned out as expected — Walmart sold the clothing e-tailer Modcloth in 2019 and shut down in 2020 — such investments likely have long-term value, said Moody’s vice president and senior credit officer Charlie O’Shea. 

“There are so many qualitative variables that come into play now,” O’Shea said. “But they add value in some fashion.”

Lore put it this way in a LinkedIn post on Friday: “By joining forces, we were able to create seamless experiences for our customers — rapid growth in our online grocery business, a new app experience, on-boarding an additional 70 million items, and next-day delivery on hundreds of thousands of those items are a few that I’m most proud of,” Lore wrote.