With the retail landscape plummeting in the US and technology poised to wipe out millions more in the coming decade, Walmart says it will aim to be “people-led and tech-empowered.”
At Walmart’s annual shareholders’ meeting, company president and chief executive, Doug McMillon, said Walmart has “started to invent the future of shopping again,” as the company leverages technology to empower its associates and improve the customer experience.
“Together, we’re building a new Walmart,” McMillon told more than 14,000 associates from across the US and around the world in Bud Walton Arena at the University of Arkansas. “We’re going to make shopping with us faster, easier and more enjoyable. We’ll do more than just save customers money and you, our associates, will make the difference. Looking ahead, we will compete with technology, but win with people. We will be people-led and tech-empowered.”
Much of his keynote was also dedicated to highlighting the retailer’s decision to expand its e-commerce operations, including policies like discounts for online orders picked up in-store, additional in-store pickup and delivery opportunities for online orders, and an “endless aisle” of goods thanks to online ordering options in-store.
McMillon went on to highlight initiatives helping to drive company results by creating a better working experience for associates and shopping experience for customers. They include:
- Free two-day shipping on more than two million items, with no membership fee;
- A discount for customers picking up online orders in stores;
- Grocery pickup in many markets around the world and delivery from stores in some;
- Jet Fresh delivery, which provides delivery of fresh groceries to the home in 1-2 days and is now available to half of the U.S. population and growing.
Amazon was the elephant in the room while the address was going on, as many of Walmart’s new customer offerings are yesterday’s offerings at Amazon, however the is one clear advantage that Amazon doesn’t have – a vast physical footprint. Walmart’s 4,700 strong store network across the US and its 2.3 million employees, shows Amazon’s infancy when it comes to physical store and omnichannel strength.
McMillon also struck an optimistic tone about the future of work and technology, encouraging the company’s 2.3 million worldwide employees to “be lifelong learners.” While investments are being made in technology, he stressed that people remain central to Walmart’s business. “The secret to our success will always be our people – it will be us,” he said, highlighting Walmart’s commitment to train and equip workers with the tools and skills they need.
“I think we should recognise that we’ll be able to learn, grow and change together,” he said. While Walmart will always be a place where associates can learn to run a store or lead a distribution centre, McMillon went on to say the company is creating jobs in new areas, including data scientists, machine-learning engineers and mobile app developers. “More than ever, Walmart will be a ladder of opportunity.”