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Walmart exec: Mobile-enabled pickup complements bricks-and-mortar footprint

NEW YORK – A Walmart executive at the Mcommerce Summit: State of Mobile Commerce 2016 highlighted how the retailer’s initial success with mobile-enabled pickup options depended on tapping cross-functional teams and launching before the holiday season.

During the session, Walmart: Leveraging Mobile to Enhance and Simplify In-Store Shopping, the executive stressed the importance of introducing smartphone-enabled pickup options to customers and doing it well, a feat which involves a great digital experience as well as physical and operational expertise. Walmart saw great success upon launching the feature, and rebranded some of its stores to more effectively showcase the option to shoppers.

“Seventy percent of Americans live within five minutes of a Walmart, so pickup is a convenient option,” said Justin Toupin, director of mobile products and strategy at Walmart Global Ecommerce.

The Mcommerce Summit: State of Mobile Commerce 2016 was organized by Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer.

The commerce puzzle piece
Rather than focus solely on mastering new technologies, Walmart prefers to begin with the customer, identify his or her primary needs, and work backwards to figure out what technologies solve those needs.

“Walmart has a lot of incubators around the company that are testing and experimenting with new technologies,” Mr. Toupin said.

In regards to Walmart Pay, Walmart’s top goals were to improve in-store checkout experiences and make mobile payments accessible to more American consumers. The platform is operating system-agnostic, meaning that Android and Apple device owners can use it freely.

Digital wallets also complement digitized loyalty programs, which are increasingly becoming must-have offerings for any major retail chain. Mr. Toupin believes the mobile commerce space will see more experimental ecosystems evolve around payments.

The executive also pointed to Walmart’s ereceipts tool as a major problem-solver in terms of gleaning valuable shopper data. Ereceipts help tie individual transactions to a consumer in real-time. Walmart’s Savings Catcher feature in the retailer’s app is built on top of the ereceipts platform.

Walmart ultimately seeks to leverage mobile to bolster in-store shopping experiences. Smartphone-enabled features such as pharmacy refills, Savings Catcher, Search My Store and in-app maps have all contributed to making Walmart a leader in mobile commerce.

Mr. Toupin claimed he is seeing many interesting themes surrounding mobile and in-store shopping emerge, including the ability to check store-specific inventory and help individuals navigate through the aisles.

Last year, Walmart was able to get its mobile Web and apps on the same platform, prompting the brand to turn its attention to several up-and-coming strategies.

A forward-looking focus
Retailers now have their pick of a plethora of new, emerging technologies they can leverage to augment engagement and fuel additional mobile sales. With virtual reality and chatbots on the rise, mobile commerce is set to undergo another major revolution.

Mr. Toupin encouraged the audience to consider what types of devices virtual reality will turn into, such as a smartphone-like utilitarian device, or a platform designed primarily for leisure, in the vein of television.

Furthermore, customers’ staggeringly high usage of messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp has been the impetus driving the chatbot craze. Chatbots enable retailers to connect with consumers on the platforms they frequent most, signaling a massive revenue-making opportunity.

Beacons are also a potentially lucrative medium for retailers to implement into their bricks-and-mortar stores. Per Mr. Toupin, beacons can be used as painkillers or as vitamins; in other words, as solution-delivering technologies that help shoppers navigate around the store and highlight nearby sale items, or as marketing channels through which other offers and materials can be sent.

Currently, Walmart is focused on optimizing its mobile app and Web experiences in a way that feels complementary and cohesive. Communicating with app users is also at the forefront of its initiatives.

“Push [notifications are] becoming a pretty mature marketing channel,” Mr. Toupin said.