GroceryShop: Walmart SVP on Tech that ‘Bends the Curve’

Walmart has been stepping on the gas in its efforts to extend its audience and keep Amazon and others at bay. Its efforts have won kudos – at the GroceryShop events this week in Las Vegas, the company was specifically singled by Morgan Stanley and others as a digital leader in online groceries.

Walmart SVP of Digital Operations Tom Ward told conference attendees that the company’s efforts take a different approach than other operations. While delivering “the low price” is always important, the “number one reason that people use online grocery at Walmart is to save time,” says Ward.

To Walmart, that means making it easier for people to find and select items, and get those items to them – whether it is in-store pickup, or delivery.

In terms of finding food, people already know they like Cheerios, says Ward. They don’t need to read reviews about them. But they may not know what kind of Halloween candy to get. Hence, the company curated a special Halloween page. The company also takes the data it gets on customers to provide “smart substitution” items.

Final mile issues are a special focus. The company is agnostic how its items get to people, and charges the same for in-store pickup, or curbside drop offs. There is a charge, however, for Waymo delivery.

In-store, one of the things the company has done is set up an orange pickup tower where customers can grab items they’ve selected online. They simply insert their pickup form, and their goods are brought out. It is a ten second confirmation process. “People don’t think new technology will work; they are so surprised,” says Ward. More than 500 stores have been set up for the orange tower program.

“If we can find a technology that bends the curve in any direction…things like the Orange tower rollout…we will lean in really hard to get it out for our customers,” adds Ward. “We want them to realize the benefit.”