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Walmart firms up app strategy for in-store holiday push

Walmart Stores Inc. is making a bigger play for holiday dollars with the launch of a new application that complements its mobile Web and SMS efforts but is equally geared to driving traffic to its stores nationwide.

The nation’s largest retailer’s “My Holiday” iPhone application is designed to find gifts for budget-conscious consumers and also deliver daily updates on the latest deals and tips. An updated version in the next few weeks will pull out all the stops to offer a completely immersive holiday shopping experience that encourages shopping and transactions on applications, mobile Web and stores.

“Walmart’s “My Holiday” app is designed to provide customers with a convenient tool to ease their holiday shopping experience,” said Wanda Young, senior director of digital strategy at Walmart, Bentonville, AR.

“The app is loaded with gift ideas, an easy-to-use shopping list and a gift finder that automatically updates with new products,” she said. “As we get closer to the holidays, we’ll release fun updates like holiday recipes and meal planning tips to bring the family together no matter what the budget.”

Created by Interpublic Group interactive agency R/GA, New York, the My Holiday application is Walmart’s most aggressive mobile push to date.

Appy holidays
The retailer launched its first mobile application last holiday season with support from a mobile Web site. It is also known to have a SMS database running into the millions, sending regular texts on deals within stores nationwide.

Launching to capture Thanksgiving Weekend and holiday sales, the My Holiday application is a precursor of things to come for Walmart.

Indeed, Walmart is eyeing seriously the potential of mobile commerce, which will complement its ecommerce efforts that have garnered it a spot among the nation’s most popular online retailers along with Amazon, Best Buy, Target and eBay.

“This app is more about helping the in-retail shopping experience, but yes, consumers can purchase most of the products directly from their mobile device,” said Richard Ting, vice president and executive creative director of mobile and social platforms at R/GA.

In this Q&A, Mr. Ting discusses Walmart’s mobile strategy, the key features if its latest application and how the retailer views mobile in the retail mix. Please read on.

What’s so unique about this Walmart shopping app versus the others that are there, especially those from Best Buy, Kohl’s or Target?

Walmart’s “My Holiday” app is a special holiday iPhone app designed to help customers find the best gifts at the best values. Features include:

• Personalized gift categories: Find gifts for loved ones based on gender, age, and budget
• Top gifts: Access a curated list of top gifts and top-rated items across product categories
• Holiday shopping lists: Users can add products to a personalized gift list for easy in-store shopping
• Store locator: Pinpoints the closest Walmart store based on customer location
• Purchase products: Enables customers to navigate to to buy products directly from their iPhone

In the coming weeks, Walmart will release an update to the app containing holiday baking and meal recipes as well as creative gift ideas for the family.

This app is about making the holiday shopping experience easier and more joyful for Walmart’s core consumer.

Walmart broke a holiday mobile effort including an app and a Web site last year. Is this app complementary?

Last year, R/GA worked with Walmart to develop their first iPhone app which allowed customers to search and browse the full site, view ratings and reviews for all products, find a store using GPS technology, and check if items were available in-store.

Last year’s app focused more on consumer electronics.

This year, Walmart’s “My Holiday” iPhone app is geared toward the all-around holiday in-retail experience to make holiday shopping easier for Walmart’s customers, even before they enter the store.

R/GA did not develop the mobile Web platform for Walmart, but the app complements the site.

What’s Walmart trying to do here – one wouldn’t think its customer base is the app-shopping type?

I wouldn’t fully agree with that statement.

We do believe that there is a good portion of holiday shoppers engaging in this type of behavior.

For those not considered to be in the app-shopping category, there are other mobile solutions available like SMS and mobile Web.

We have two SMS holiday gift programs, and the mobile Web experience complements both SMS programs and the app.

R/GA did not develop Walmart’s mWeb experience, but I think it’s very important to have a multifaceted mobile solution in place because not everyone is a smartphone or iPhone owner yet.

Is this app being positioned as a mobile commerce tool?
This app is more about helping the in-retail shopping experience, but yes, consumers can purchase most of the products directly from their mobile device.

Will consumers shop in increasing numbers on mobile this holiday season?
Yes, we believe so.

However, it’s not just about shopping and transacting directly on your mobile device this holiday season.

It’s also about how mobile can help facilitate a better, more informed shopping experience for consumers while they are shopping in a retail store.

How will Walmart promote this app?
There will be some mobile media that will push users to the “My Holiday” app, but Walmart will leverage its full suite of owned media properties like its Web site, Facebook fan page and YouTube channel to promote the app.

We also anticipate earned media being generated by bloggers, Tweeters and others that are fans of the Walmart brand.

Please click here to download Walmart’s My Holiday application in Apple’s App Store

Final Take
Mickey Alam Khan is Editor in Chief of Mobile Marketer