Walmart's e-commerce annual sales hit $13.7 billion

Walmart's fourth quarter capped a year of investment. Now the company is hoping e-commerce and a one-Walmart approach to technology delivers customer loyalty and sales.

Walmart generated $13.7 billion in global e-commerce sales in fiscal 2016, up 12 percent from the previous year, and the company outlined plans to scale its Internet sales. After all, it has a lot of catching up to do given Amazon had $63.71 billion in North America sales and $35.4 billion internationally for the year.

The retail giant was under pressure after its earnings and outlook disappointed Wall Street. Walmart delivered earnings of $1.43 a share on revenue of $129.7 billion for the fourth quarter ended Jan. 30. For fiscal 2016, Walmart checked in with earnings of $4.57 a share on revenue of $482.1 billion.

On a conference call, Neil Ashe, Walmart's CEO of e-commerce, said the company's investments are starting to pay off. The trick for Walmart is to provide one seamless experience across the retailer's app, site and stores. Walmart is also boosting its online assortment and expanding its grocery business via the Internet.

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What's unclear is where Walmart can win. For instance, does Walmart's e-commerce efforts preserve existing sales or add to them over time? One area where Walmart could thrive is online grocery. Ashe said:

As we look at critical touch points that meld our app, site and store, we obviously think about Online Grocery. In October, we announced we were expanding from five markets to over 20. We've rolled out to those additional markets, and we're continuing to see the strong emotional response it triggers with customers and the very personal relationship they're forming with Walmart.

Also: Walmart's latest e-commerce push could bring online grocery shopping to the masses

Indeed, what Walmart's e-commerce strategy really boils down to is keeping that relationship with the customer and improving it.

The other thread to ponder about Walmart's e-commerce strategy is whether its internal information technology knowhow translates to the front-end of e-commerce. Walmart's back-end technology revamped retail and led to the company's ability to cut prices and dominate. Ashe added:

Behind all of the capabilities we're delivering are some of the best technologists in the world. We've built an e-commerce technology company inside of Walmart. We've always had one of the strongest enterprise technology organizations. Those teams have worked closely to deliver experiences like online grocery and Walmart Pay that seamlessly merge the app, site and store. Last month, we announced we are bringing together those teams under a single Walmart Technology banner. This aligns all of our technologists with how our customers see us - One Walmart.

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