Walmart CEO outlines omnichannel retail strategy to shareholders, associates

During Walmart's annual meeting of shareholders, CEO Doug McMillon said the chain must "stop talking about digital and physical retail as if they're two separate things."
Written by Natalie Gagliordi, Contributor

Discount retail chain Walmart held its annual shareholders meeting in Fayetteville, Arkansas on Friday, where CEO Doug McMillon took advantage of the soapbox moment to preach the importance of technology.

"I want us to stop talking about digital and physical retail as if they're two separate things. The customer doesn't think of it that way, and we can't either," McMillon said to the some 14,000 meeting attendees.

McMillon's message boils down to one word: Omnichannel. It's a common goal across the retail industry, but McMillon made it a point to drill down on its necessity.

"One customer can shop with us in so many different ways - in stores, on their phones, at homes, a pick-up point," he said. "But they just think they're shopping at Walmart, at ASDA, at Sam's Club."

Without revealing exact details, McMillon said Walmart will make technology top of mind. That includes not only customer-facing initiatives both online and off, but also an overhaul of the internal technology used by department managers.

Walmart has committed to increasing its digital prowess in the past. Last month the retailer revealed plans to challenge its largest online rival Amazon with an online order fulfillment program akin to Amazon's premium subscription service Prime.

In its recent quarterly earnings report, Walmart said it plans is to invest in e-commerce heavily this year, with the aim of creating a mobile, social, Web and brick-and-mortar revenue cycle. Walmart is also looking to centralize knowledge and best practices from projects around the world, such as Asda's home grocery shopping venture.

But the retailing giant still struggles to see a significant sales bump when it comes to omnichannel. Walmart's e-commerce efforts contributed just .2 percent to its US sales during the last quarter.

McMillon is keeping his outlook bullish, however, positing that Walmart "is uniquely positioned to define the future of retail." While that feat remains questionable, Walmart does have at least one leg up on the competition -- its network of more than 11,000 brick-and-mortar stores.

"Think about the map of our locations. No one else has that incredible network around the world," McMillon said. "Now, think about our supply chain and experienced logistics team. I get excited about what our technology team is now capable of. As we add new capabilities and join these unique assets together effectively, we're going to have something special."


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