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Walmart has realized that its consumers are going digital and is taking some big steps to overtake Amazon, its biggest online competitor.
"I'm not going to be Chicken Little and tell you the company is going to go away if we don't get the Internet and mobile right," Neil Ashe, a Walmart e-commerce executive, told Fast Company. "We have an obligation to the mission to get this thing right because the customer expects it of us."
While Walmart is a much bigger company than Amazon, the online retailer is killing Walmart in the digital space, Farhad Manjoo at Fast Company reported. The company had "embarrassing" systems in place that didn't sync up with one another or the supply chain.
So Walmart came up with a plan to do e-commerce right.
- Walmart began recruiting top Silicon Valley talent and acquiring start-ups last year. For instance, Walmart acquired Kosmix, a company that specializes in making web design more seamless, for $300 million. That team has been working for over a year to fix Walmart's systems and improve its website.
- Walmart is investing in the "social gifting" market. A year ago, Walmart launched "Shopycat," which makes gift recommendations based on friends' Facebook profiles. The site is now called "Walmart Gifts" and allows customers to log in and get personalized recommendations based on Facebook and Twitter profiles.
- The retailer got a better search engine. A dozen top engineers took 10 months to build it, and while the company won't discuss sales figures, they said the new system is more user-friendly. "If you search for cotton socks now, you'll actually find them," Manjoo writes.
- Walmart is trying to lead the charge in same-day shipping. Its at an advantage considering that 96 percent of Americans live within 20 miles of a Walmart.
- Walmart is investing like crazy in its mobile app. " Walmart imagines that as you go through an average day, you'll remember things you need--milk, bread, a new tennis racquet, a toy truck for your nephew's birthday--and tell the voice-enabled Walmart app. The app will list each item's location inside your local Walmart and include product info; eventually, it will also learn your preferences and offer recommendations. And once you're actually in the store, you'll be able to summon an associate to help you," Manjoo says.
Now that Walmart has decided to start heavily investing in e-commerce, there's little doubt that it can take over the world.
"In the first few years, were we tinkering and experimenting and not moving? There's some truth to that. But look at our history," said Ashe. "When Walmart leans into something, it's like a tidal wave."
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