Walmart.com today revealed details about the next phase of its reimagined web site, which will bow in May, featuring sophisticated graphics and photography that showcases “real-life moments,” an expanded color palette and fonts that add vibrancy and depth to the site. It’s all meant to create a more upscale environment resembling a specialty store experience as the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer moves beyond low-priced apparel to launch a flagship online store for Lord & Taylor and capture new brands.
Beyond the cosmetic changes, which are significant, there’s a focus on creating differentiated shopping experiences for customers based on their wants and needs as well as their geography.
“The redesign is about more than form, it’s also about function. One of the changes we’re making is adding more local and personalized elements, something that we’re especially well-positioned to do in light of our more than 4,700 stores across the country,” said Marc Lore, chief executive officer of Walmart U.S. e-commerce, in one of several thinly veiled references to competitor Amazon. “In fact, the majority of the homepage will be personalized in some way. We’re introducing a new section that showcases top-selling items in a customer’s location. Did you know that air mattresses recently trended in Dallas? This area of the site will also feature a customer’s local store profile, including whether or not the unit offers services such as online grocery. It also has a dashboard with shoppers’ order status, and Easy Reorder, which lets customers easily repurchase the items they frequently buy.”
A goal of the reboot is to make Walmart.com more compelling for customers to shop not only for commodities such as diapers and laundry detergent, but also a new dining room table, Lore said.
Walmart in February relaunched home on the web site with an emphasis on higher-quality and trend-right products, editorial-style images and a new online shopping experience described as “inspirational” and browsing for items called, “discovery.”
Walmart reiterated that its partnership with Lord & Taylor will see the department store open a flagship later this spring on Walmart.com, but offered no new information. However, Lore made it explicitly clear that Walmart.com is gunning for more brands.
Walmart Inc. is the top apparel retailer in the U.S., with $35 billion to $45 billion in annual sales. But with Amazon in the number-two spot and launching a barrage of new private label brands, the Bentonville-Ark.-based retailer is moving to up its game.
“The customer is at the core of everything we do, so it won’t be a surprise to hear that customers helped us make these changes,” Lore said. “But they weren’t the only ones. We also considered feedback from current and prospective brands as we look to continue building our assortment. With these changes, brands will have opportunities to better tell their stories on Walmart.com, including new approaches to advertising within seamlessly integrated ads.”
“We’re beginning to introduce specialty shopping experiences,” Lore said. “We know customers shop differently depending on what they’re purchasing. Customers shopping for groceries and household essentials want to quickly re-buy what they always purchase, while those looking for a new couch want to be inspired while browsing the different options.
“We’ve already launched a home specialty experience and, over the coming weeks, we will begin to introduce our new destination for fashion, which will feature relevant, bold imagery and seasonal stories,” Lore said. “The Lord & Taylor flagship store we announced late last year will be a part of this new fashion destination. We want each category to feel like you are shopping a specialty store and we plan to build out these specialty experiences for other categories starting later this year.”
Walmart on March 1 launched four new apparel brands. Time and True for women has a boho vibe with peasant dresses at $16.48, embroidered tie-sleeve tops at $15.44, and classic looks such as a Lyocell-belted shirtdress at $18.48; Terra & Sky, a new plus-size label, and Wonder Nation for kids features brightly colored clothes at low prices — $6.88 for a silk lace hanky dress and $9.44 for boys’ cargo shorts. George, an existing brand is shifting its focus to men only.
The retailer is also pruning tired brands from assortments in stores. White Stag, Faded Glory and Danskin Now will no longer be sold, and Just My Size will be available exclusively online.
Lore’s pitch to fashion brands is a kick to Amazon in the achilles heel. Retail experts said brands are less-inclined to partner with the digital giant than they are to work with Walmart. “Manufacturers certainly have had their issues with both companies over the years,” said Ken Cassar, Slice Intelligence vice president and principal analyst. “Walmart has the advantage of not being Amazon and being able to go and create partnerships. Everyone is terrified of Amazon across the world.”
“While the site will look different, our commitment to offering low prices online remains as strong as ever,” said Lore. “As part of our everyday commitment to save customers money and time, we offer free, two-day shipping without a membership fee, and convenient services like free pickup in stores.”
As Walmart rethinks its strategy to compete with Amazon, it will “make more moves to tap into less budget-minded consumers and broaden its brand appeal,” said Sean Maharaj, director in the retail practice of AArete. “Walmart traditionally wasn’t considered a place to buy fashion, but with the amount of traffic coming through its stores and web site, it would be negligent not to capitalize on that flow with more diverse brands and high-end partnerships. Walmart realizes that growth and survival need to come from innovative ideas and we’ll see more, especially as it prunes store count.”
Walmart’s relentless focus on “Every Day Low Cost and Every Day Low Price” hasn’t left room for much besides basics, which may be why the retailer’s apparel business accounts for just 7 to 8 percent of $500.3 billion in fiscal 2018 sales. The retailer has tried to raise its fashion bar before. Walmart in 2005 launched Metro 7 to great fanfare, including ads in Vogue magazine. The brand was subsequently discontinued.
Lore said that “introducing the new Walmart.com is an important step as we continue to build the customer shopping experience. Today’s announcement is just the beginning. There’s more to come.”