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Walmart is 2016 mobile retailer of the year

The major bricks-and-mortar retailer was able to stay stable by shifting along with the volatile and ever-changing retail market in which new technology is coming on along at a rapid speed and consumer behavior is constantly altering. Walmart has made major changes in 2016 with alterations within its business model, bricks-and-mortar adjustments, major technology updates and significant company acquisitions.

An acquisition of the online retailer put Walmart on the map this year to potentially dethrone Amazon, which many say it accomplished. Walmart’s decision to revamp its ecommerce model, which experienced fledgling sales in the past year, resulted in the brand purchasing for approximately $3.3 billion.

While opinions on the effectiveness and ultimate return-on-investment of the acquisition differed among experts, many believe that the potential to receive access to scores of new customers in specific markets and greater analytics capabilities will result in Walmart climbing up a few notches in the mobile commerce space (see story).

Another major step that helped propel Walmart in the right direction was its online and mobile pay system that launched in December of 2015 but saw real growth in 2016. With mobile payments becoming increasing important in online purchasing, Walmart’s solution was a major step in the right direction.

Walmart was originally experiencing slower growth in online sales, so it turned its attention to Walmart Pay, which made an impact. Throughout the year the mobile pay platform continued to rollout to major markets in the United States and Canada.

User experience was clearly more convenient and favorable to customers, but Walmart’s next goal should be to concentrate on ushering in new ones. Walmart’s initial research showed that 80 percent of Walmart Pay transactions came from repeat users (see story).

The retailer also integrated other mobile pay platforms into its checkout such as Visa Checkout to continue combatting low online sales conversion.

Print and bricks-and-mortar experiences are continually moving to mobile and digital, with customers are now looking for touch points online instead of in-person or in print. Walmart has launched a series of initiatives that reflect this user behavior and mindset.

For instance, Walmart discontinued price matching from a printed circular in 500 stores, but the retailer continued to offer customers at these stores an in-application equivalent, an approach that could accelerate as more retailers recognize the benefits.

Walmart was the only major retailers offering a mobile price-matching program although Best Buy offered a similar service in less formalized way. More retailers are likely to follow suit as they recognize the benefits of providing in-app services that keep valuable shoppers coming back (see story).

A major rollout and update to its app helped support these initiatives.

Walmart made a major announcement in January that it will have a massive store shutdown, closing more than 269 stores to focus on digital. The strategy has been followed by numerous other major retailers within this year and the last, as digital is continually eradicating the need for a major bricks-and-mortar presence.

Dipping its toe into mobile delivery services, Walmart also partnered with third-party apps this year and testing overseas to work on grocery delivery, a major game changer. Next year we are likely to see a wider range of store implementing delivery.

Mobile-exclusive deals throughout the year also helped Walmart get its footing on a stronger digital stance.

Mobile Retailer of the Year first runner’s-up: Amazon
While Walmart maybe have dethroned Amazon as the top retailer, that does not mean Amazon slunk behind.

The ecommerce giant is still a leader in the digital retail space and a major innovator. While Amazon was born on the Web, the retailer is continuing to move further into physical retail with its latest offering: a bricks-and-mortar grocery store where consumers can purchase items through an app and then just grab them off the shelf.

The new store – Amazon Go – which is not yet open to the general public but likely will be in the near future, completely removes the idea of a checkout line at a grocery store in yet another industry-shaking move. The new store is currently only available for Amazon employees (see story).

In another major innovation move, Amazon gifted nearby University of Washington a $10 million sum, serving the hybrid purposes of both investment in AI and commerce technologies as well as donation.

The donation will go towards adding a second Computer Science and Engineering building on the University of Washington campus. Amazon’s patronage will also establish a pipeline of talent from University of Washington into their own brand, one that needs young talent in order to successfully complete a shift in their commerce from mobile to artificial intelligence (see story).