Walmart.com president and chief executive Marc Lore is bullish on technology.
The executive spoke at the National Retail Federation’s digital conference Shop.org in Los Angeles Tuesday, talking up a number of subjects ranging from delivery and the last mile to new technologies. Lore’s now about a year in since Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s $3.3 billion acquisition of Jet.com, the company he founded in 2014.
“I think it’s important to not just look at the technology, but what it enables and that’s really the lens that we’re looking through,” he said. “Even e-commerce generally and the Internet, there are two different ways to look at it.”
Yes, e-commerce is about shipping goods to a customer’s door, he said, but what it has really meant for companies is a tool to being better merchants. Where physical catalogues have fixed product, the number of stockkeeping units is far more vast in an online store, impressing upon retailers the need to merchandise right to win over consumers. The same could be said about nearly any technology, including voice-activated shopping, the executive said.
“For example, voice [activated] means one best answer is going to be more important than it has ever been because you can’t just get a list of 50 things like before. That will separate the winners and losers,” he said. “That’s where the game’s going to be won or lost. The tech, just like the Internet, it will get commoditized pretty quickly so I wouldn’t be chasing the tech as much as the merchandising aspect.”
Technology to enhance the experience then becomes that much more important as more sku’s get added to sites such as Walmart.com or Jet.com.
Top of mind now for Lore is growing the product assortment by focusing on the best-selling products at the top, or the head of the long-tail distribution model, along with elevating the Walmart brand to woo businesses that haven’t historically wanted to sell on Walmart.com.
For all the talk of digital and what’s happening online, Lore said the role of Walmart’s physical store footprint and the ability to leverage the fleet is something he’s particularly excited about. With stores now doubling as warehouses and the company refining its ability to have employees at the store level pick and pack orders, they solve what Lore called the last piece of the puzzle in the question of how to get product to customers in the most efficient way possible.
The company already has employees picking fresh produce and delivering it to the trunks of customers’ vehicles at 1,000 stores in a program Lore said is being grown very aggressively.
“I feel really good about how that’s coming and I feel like we can deliver faster at a lower cost,” Lore said.
The company said last week it was piloting a program in Silicon Valley with the help of smart-lock technology firm August Home to deliver groceries to customers’ homes. The program, which has 100 volunteer participants, gives delivery associates the ability to enter a customer’s home with a one-time use code to actually stock their fridge with what was purchased. Customers are able to monitor the delivery through an app.
“It’s funny,” Lore said. “We sometimes hear people say that that’s crazy. They would never let people come into their house. I feel like we’re hearing the same thing when people were talking about Airbnb. I think we’re early days, but I think that’s the future.”
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