• Retail Dive

Walmart expands back-to-school efforts to grow digital sales


Dive Brief:

· Walmart on Thursday expanded the number of back-to-school items, included for college kids, eligible for in-store pickup services for online orders, helped by a new dedicated back-to-school section on its website. The service is especially helpful to families who need to buy items at home but pick them up wherever their child attends college, according to a company press release.

· The retail giant is also providing dedicated “Back-to-School Helpers” in stores to help customers shop or who can shop for them online, the company said in a press release. Walmart enlists such help for customers at the holidays and is bringing the service to back-to-school shopping for the first time.

· As it has in previous years, Walmart is also integrating teacher wish lists to its registry system, so families can look up their teachers’ needs and fulfill classroom requests.

Dive Insight:

Walmart is pairing its low-price messaging with one of convenience, to the point where digital tools and BOPIS services seem designed to shorten up the time shoppers spend in its stores. “This back-to-school season, we’re keeping the math problems simple – adding savings, subtracting time,” Scott Bayles, vice president of stationery, Walmart U.S., said in a statement.

It goes against the grain at a time when brick-and-mortar retailers are under pressure to delight their customers in stores by getting them, and keeping them, in stores longer. But that’s what Walmart shoppers, unlike those more likely to shop at Target or Amazon (especially as Prime members), are after, according to Matt Sargent, senior vice president of retail for Frank N. Magid Associates.

“The people I would call the ‘shopping enthusiasts’ are more likely to appreciate Amazon and Target and shop at different stores. [They] are enthusiastic about those choices," he told Retail Dive. "Conversely, there are people who just want the cheapest price and want it easy — and who don’t go online that much. Amazon has had a hard time reaching that segment, they don’t go to Target for the most part.”

Walmart is hoping that it can position its e-commerce operations so that people do go online, and it’s made concerted efforts — including a series of acquisitions starting with its $3.3 billion purchase of upstart Jet last year—to widen assortments and blur the lines between stores and online. Walmart’s e-commerce sales rose 63% in its most recent quarter, with an attendant 69% rise in digital gross merchandise volume. The online assortment rose from 10 million to 50 million items in about a year. But Walmart also aims to keep its “always low prices” promise, executives have said in recent months.

“It’s always been our job to save our customers money and we aren’t changing — you can still find more than 300 items under $1 at Walmart this back-to-school season — but we’re doing more than that,” Bayles said. “We’re also saving our customers time with easy ways to shop and multiple ways to get these items to students, so everyone can ace their school shopping.”


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