Walmart has confirmed that it is not advertising in the Super Bowl this year, which means its debut in 2020 will remain the US retail giant’s only appearance as an official big game announcer for at least another year.
As a core business, Walmart is one of the few retailers who really thrived in 2020 despite the pandemic. And now, as uncertainty persists for many U.S. consumers, the retailer hopes to carve out an even more meaningful role in their lives.
At the National Retail Federation’s annual event last week, Ira Kalish, chief global economist at Deloitte, said he expects the economy to grow slowly for most of 2021 – and we will continue to see “substantial disruption” in the consumer market.
“Our hope, of course, is that with the introduction of a vaccine, by the end of the year we will see a significant recovery in economic activity,” he said.
In response, Janey Whiteside, Executive Vice President and Chief Customer Officer of Walmart, said Walmart customers were “absolutely not immune to the economic downturn … [and] may even be disproportionately affected. “
In fact, she cited figures from November that showed nearly half of Walmart customers were worried about the economy and 40% did not expect a quick recovery. That, Whiteside said, means Walmart’s focus on everyday low prices “will continue to play a major role with customers.”
“I think the idea of saving money to live better now is probably more relevant than ever,” she added.
Indeed, the use of services like pickup and delivery increased significantly in 2020. In the first quarter, for example, Walmart saw 300% growth in those services – and four times as many new customers using them.
In part, that’s because of Walmart’s large footprint – the retailer likes to remind us that its 4,800 U.S. stores put it within 10 miles of 90% of Americans. But, said Whiteside, it also helped Walmart to easily switch to omnichannel by filling orders from nearby stores if an item is out of stock at a fulfillment center. It also allows Walmart to offer its express delivery service, which fulfills online orders within hours.
“Being able to manage our inventory wherever it is, I think, is really a plus for us,” she says.
Whiteside also believes stores will continue to play an important role in commerce, as consumers continue to look for an experiential component in shopping. That’s why Walmart is thinking about what the next iteration of the in-store experience will look like when customers want to be in-store again, and how to use them to become the go-to player in pickup and drop-off services. delivery.
Meanwhile, Walmart is also thinking about how to marry all the data it has about its customers to better understand them – and how to serve them – better. This includes data from physical and online retail, as well as its pharmacies, health and wellbeing and financial services companies. Data from all of these sources provides a comprehensive view of customers, to whom the retailer can then offer “more meaningful services,” according to Whiteside.
“Think about our ability to know if, with the right permissions, a person is gluten-free or has celiac disease. [disease] or has a specific health problem, ”she says. “We can marry that with health data… [and] dietary recommendations in a really interesting way.
Although she noted that consumers generally have fairly visceral reactions to home retail services, such as the option of refrigerator delivery. he started testing in 2017—Whiteside said Walmart continues to test home services even during the pandemic, though this is now limited to doorsteps and garages. It’s really just the next step beyond ridesharing services, she said.