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Walmart CMO William White on navigating shifting shopping behaviors

Walmart CMO White on being wired for progress and continuous improvement

Despite Delta variant concerns, Walmart reported this week that in-store sales are up while e-commerce is down. Such is the shifting state of affairs for retailers. As part of The Drum’s Retail Deep Dive, we get at the heart of Walmart’s marketing strategy, catching up with its chief marketer William White. Here are three of the key themes he identifies.

1. Dynamically adapting online and offline shopping experiences

“Customer behaviors have been rapidly shifting and changing, and this was true even before the pandemic. With the pandemic, we’ve seen a number of new customer trends. Early on, there was an acceleration of omnichannel shopping. We saw online traffic grow dramatically while store trips were less frequent with bigger baskets. Early this summer, we saw that customers wanted to get out and shop. We’ll continue to pay attention to customer behaviors; and data and technology allows us to continue to be nimble. In particular, personalization to reach customers in the moments that matter will be especially important.

“Over the past couple of years, we’ve continuously innovated to bring new shopping conveniences to our customers – from in-store and curbside pickup to same-day delivery. This past year, these services played a critical role in helping customers safely get the essential items they need. We’ve certainly moved faster than we ever have, accelerating new products and services to help our customers save time and money when they’ve needed it the most.

“Last year, we also launched Walmart+, our new membership program. It’s designed to make life easier and to give our customers an option where they don’t have to sacrifice on cost or convenience. With Walmart+, we have the right shopping solutions at the right time, with unlimited free delivery from our stores and a ’scan and go’ shopping experience with the Walmart app for a quick, easy, touch-free payment experience. I view it as the best of the Walmart experience, where everything you love is more enhanced and personalized.

“We are excited to continue to debut new ways to engage with our customers digitally as well. We are shortening the path from inspiration to purchase through engaging shoppable content such as shoppable livestreams, shoppable digital video and partnerships with social platforms. ​We want to meet customers where they are with great content that enables excitement and makes shopping easier.”

2. Getting straight at customers’ needs during back-to-school time

“I’ve always been wired for progress and continuous improvement. During the pandemic, this have never been more true. We’ve all had to keep learning, adjusting, and being agile. We no longer live a world where you can create annual plans and just execute them. In such a dynamic environment, we’ve adapted to planning in quarterly increments while also continuing to build for the long term.

“One of our bigger campaigns in market now is ’Here We Go’ for the Back to School season. The campaign taps into the determination and tenacity that our customers need to thrive this school year. Our messaging focuses on the ease of our pickup and delivery services and quality products at low prices across categories from apparel to tech to school supplies. We’ve included teacher go-to’s as a new approach this year where we have partnered with teachers to take the guess work out of fulfilling the list.

“As a customer-centric company, we’ve continued to offer the products our customers want and need at a great value while making them available to shop in ways that are convenient. We have also shown up in the world in a way that customers now expect from companies as big as we are. We’ve not only created marketing messages, but also experiences, that help families save time and money, as well as find joy in these uncertain times. We also strive to use our influence to help create a world that makes all groups we serve feel seen, heard, and welcomed.”

3. Focusing on value and values

“Walmart is the largest retailer in the US and 90% of Americans shop at Walmart every year. But we are so much more than a retail company. How we’ve delivered shared value over the past six decades has changed as our customers’ needs have changed and the world has changed. Over the past year, it’s been even more important to our customers that we show up and positively impact their lives. This responsibility has never been more important than it is today.

“At Walmart, people know us for our Every Day Low Prices. And we will continue to deliver on that promise for our customers. In an especially challenging time for so many, our customers have counted on us to give them the best price. But when you are as big as we are, there is the opportunity and responsibility to use our size and scale as a force for good. Walmart is and has always been, in the live better business. We have responded to socioeconomic, environmental and healthcare challenges with empathy, agility, and sizeable enduring commitments. We will continue to make sure that the brand shows up in a positive way for associates, customers, and the community.”

For more on the reinvention of retail, check out The Drum’s Retail hub, where we explore everything from livestreaming e-commerce to AR shopping and conscious consumerism.

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