Wal-Mart creating a more personalized online shopping experience

August 5, 2014

In a bid to remain competitive with retail nemesis Amazon, Wal-Mart is rebuilding its website to provide consumers with a more personalized shopping experience.

In a bid to remain competitive with retail nemesis Amazon, Wal-Mart is rebuilding its website to provide consumers with a more personalized shopping experience.

Following in its rivals foot-steps following brick-and-mortar revenue declines for five straight quarters, the world’s largest retailer is designing a more consumer-oriented website prior to the site’s re-launch in early 2015, reported the Associated Press. Changes include recommended products based on shopping and purchase habits, local weather and events and search histories.

The changes that will roll-out over the next few months are being headed by Wal-Mart’s tech division, @WalmartLabs, according to The Washington Post. The website upgrades will be the most extensive since the retailer switched to a global software system meant to make the website more nimble.

Wal-Mart sees potential in its online division following an extended period of revenue decline from its physical locations, according to AP.

Following the falling sales rates and a six-quarter decline in traffic Bill Simon stepped down from his position as CEO and President of Wal-Mart in July, with 35-year retail veteran Greg Foran taking over, according to Forbes. The company expects that the changes will bring about more success.

“Walmart’s U.S. operation’s appeal has aged,” Gene Hoffman, formerly president of Kroger and chairman and president of Supervalu, told the publication. “Its pricing is no longer overwhelming. New ideas and breakthrough concepts are needed. Hey! That sounds like yesterday’s Kmart when it was larger than Walmart. Greg Foran has been handed staleness, which I believe is the greatest challenge facing him as the new leader. And his greatest opportunities lie creating new beginnings, just as Sam Walton did in 1962.”

Retailers seek to pounce on booming e-commerce market
While brick-and-mortar locations have remained disappointing, the company’s online sales have been a point of optimism. During the company’s fiscal year that ended on January 31, e-commerce sales increased by 30 percent, AP noted. Retailers are using the wealth of customer data retrieved through e-mail addresses and call phone numbers in order to catch up with Amazon’s online retail dominance.

Retailers are moving toward online retail for good reason. By 2018 U.S. online retail sales are expected to total $414 billion, up from $263 billion in 2013 – a compound annual growth rate of 9.5 percent, explained a Forrester Research white paper, cited by Internet Retailer. The dollar figure growth over that period is 57.4 percent.  In 2013, this represented 8 percent of all retail sales. In 2018 e-commerce will account for 11 percent of online retail transactions.

Recently a multitude of retailers have recognized the potential benefits of investing in an e-commerce market that has become increasingly lucrative in recent years. Website personalization will be important for turning the increased website traffic into revenue. Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru stated that making a website more customizable can raise a retailer’s online sales by a percentage somewhere in the mid-single digits, according to AP.

Wal-Mart has recognized this potential and made several changes already. In recent years the company has quadrupled its online offerings and updated its search tool. The change to the website’s search box brought a 20 percent increase in purchases completed after searching the website.

In addition to changes to the search tool and a more personalized shopping experience, Wal-Mart has several other moves planned to enhance its website, reported The Washington Post. One change will be a faster checkout for customers. Where once they had to go through six pages in order to reach the final buy button, shoppers will now face only one web page. In addition, content on the website will be adjustable according to the device the user is shopping on. This means that screen size won’t make a difference to the newly flexible website.

As it sees its e-commerce efforts succeed in financial terms, the retailer will continue its online enhancement as it seeks to take advantage of the expanding online retail market in the face of falling brick-and-mortar sales, and gain an edge over its competitor Amazon.

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