@WalmartLabs is a part of Walmart’s Global e-Commerce Division, and is the company’s hub for creating technologies and businesses in social and mobile commerce for global shoppers.
“There are two fundamentally huge, disruptive changes that are happening. Smart phones and social media and those are the two areas we are addressing. The India team will be significant part of the team, the Walmart Labs mission is global and India team will developed for the this global market. The India team should have ownership of some really key pieces of the technology we are developing.”
The new venture will develop applications to provide customers with the exact location of a certain item in the company’s sprawling stores and detailed product comparisons — a feature typically found only on online shopping web sites. By doing so, Walmart plays catch-up with online retailer Amazon.
Wal-Mart has recently forayed into social media in its attempt to exploit the window into consumer tastes and preferences provided by social media outlets such as Facebook. The company joined hands with Facebook in October and launched My Local Walmart, a page that lets the retailer’s roughly nine million Facebook fans follow what is happening at stores in their neighborhoods.
Walmart has advantages over Amazon, where it’s bricks and clicks business model can offer enriching cohesive experiences, where offline and online are being integrated.
But challenges are overarching, retail is under pressure. For instance, in the Netherlands, more and more space in shopping areas is empty, a less vibrant experience creates a vicious cycle. In this case as well, new technologies should give offline shopping a boost.
The Hoofdbedrijfschap Detailhandel (Dutch retail sector institute) in the Netherlands presented their research “The new way of shopping”. The research shows that mobile information, shoppers continuously connected on social networks and the location of the shoppers offer new opportunities.
In order to achieve this, not only new technologies are needed but integral business processes as well, where offline and online are combined. Think of free WiFi or digital communications within stores.
With the new way of shopping, service and experience become more important. Chairman of the HBD, Elrie Bakker said:
“You can use your phone to read a code in the window to see if a dress in your size is in stock, which can also be done when the store is closed. Or based on your shopping list you can create a route through the shopping area. Very useful in cities where you don’t know the way. Retailers can offer digital systems that offer savings, for instance to get parking costs refunded. There are many possibilities. ”
Just like the window of a shop can be an opportunity, so are in-store screens. A new in-store digital screen system, build by MTI, has built-in support to integrate social media. The system can also be linked to the retailers’ own Internet operations.
“Retailers who use social applications like Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare to communicate and interact with consumers on PCs and phones can now use [the Intuition ReAct digital-signage platform] to integrate those content feeds into interactive digital displays running right in store aisles.
A typical retail Website has a lot of secondary information about products that can be really valuable in helping shoppers make final buying decisions.”
Another aspect where innovation takes place is the store concept. A new marketing phenomenon is the ‘proposition store’. It is a temporarly store that only shows one collection that is made aware to the crowd. These –temporarly- proposition stores are welcomed by proporty owners because due to the recession, more buildings are empty.
Where do you think a pure online player like Amazon can innovate?
By Gianluigi Cuccureddu
Gianluigi Cuccureddu, contributing editor, is an experienced writer specializing in innovation, open business, new media and marketing. He is also Managing Partner of the 90:10 Group, a global Open Business consultancy, which helps clients open their activity directly and indirectly to external stakeholders through the use of social media, its data and technologies for the purpose of competitive advantages in marketing, service- and product innovation.