American Express executive Janey Whiteside on Wednesday announced via LinkedIn that she is joining Walmart in a new role that she said "is a step change for Walmart and it reflects the company’s passion for keeping the customer at the center of everything it does." Her title will be chief customer officer, AdAge reports.
She will "play a critical role looking after our brand and thinking through the customer journey — from acquiring new customers to their shopping experience and resolving any issues they may have," according to a note to employees from Walmart U.S. CEO Greg Foran and U.S. E-Commerce CEO Marc Lore seen by AdAge.
Walmart is also hiring TripAdvisor Chief Marketing Officer Barbara Messing to take over as CMO in mid-August, AdAge also said. At Walmart, Messing will work with Whiteside and will lead marketing for the retailer’s stores and e-commerce, according to the report. Walmart didn’t immediately return Retail Dive’s request for comment.
Walmart hardly seems like it needs help connecting with American shoppers, having built a retail behemoth in the last half century that has made it a fixture on the American landscape. Nearly all (95%) Americans shopped at a Walmart in 2016, according to NPD Group. It's easy to see how: The retailer says it runs more than 5,000 stores nationwide and is the country's biggest grocer.
But its e-commerce remains somewhat disconnected from its brick-and-mortar operations. Jet and several new pure-play banners are positioned to appeal to the younger, wealthier shoppers who continue to mostly avoid Walmart. And, despite bold efforts to encourage in-store pickup of online orders, Walmart has sometimes struggled to organize assortments and prices between the two channels.
The retail giant, which made "always low prices" its mantra for five decades, is also in a pitched battle with grocery chains, smaller rival Target and Amazon on price. Its expansion of grocery delivery and boost to e-commerce are hitting margins, an almost unheard-of issue for the world's most efficient distributor of consumer goods.
Whiteside and Messing, then, have their work cut out for them in revamping how the retailer connects with consumers.
"Retail is going through immense change and it’s an incredible time in the industry," is how Whiteside put it on LinkedIn three days ago. "If there is anything I have learned in my more than 20 years with American Express, it’s that creating an end-to-end experience for customers is paramount."