Wal-Mart Listens To Customers Online, Too

May 12, 2004
George Anderson

By George Anderson

A Bloomberg news service report says analysts are looking for Wal-Mart to report a rise in first-quarter profits of 13 percent with a bottom line boost coming from new services, such as walmart.com’s downloadable music store and the addition of products for sale exclusively through the Internet.

The retailer has found ways to generate new sources of revenue by listening to the needs of consumers and then delivering products and services in Wal-Mart’s classic everyday low-price style online and in the store.

Carter Cast, walmart.com’s senior vice president of marketing and merchandising, told Bloomberg the retailer has discovered opportunities by paying attention to what online shoppers are looking to buy.

The retailer noticed a spike in searches in recent months on its site for trampolines and the inflatable bounce rooms found at carnivals and rented out for children’s parties.

As a result, said Mr. Cast, walmart.com added about 20 trampolines and bounce rooms to its inventory compared to last year when it carried a single item.

Wal-Mart.com’s learning has also directly benefited store operations.

In another example, Mr. Cast noticed shoppers were searching online for car and truck tires. Soon after, the retailer began allowing customers to order tires online while picking them up in a local Wal-Mart store.

Count Patty Edwards of Wentworth, Hauser & Violich among the impressed. “They are doing some pretty innovative things on the Web site. It not only drives traffic to the site itself, but also into the stores.’

Moderator’s Comment: What most impresses you about Wal-Mart’s multi-channel retailing performance? Do you see opportunities
for improvement?

Does Wal-Mart understand its customers? To quote from a line of the most popular downloaded tune on walmart.com, Gretchen Wilson’s Redneck Woman,
“Hell, yeah.”

The company’s online sales are still miniscule compared to Wal-Mart’s total (about one percent) but the consumer insights and business opportunities it
continues to identify are helping to keep the retailer posting double-digit profit increases while others look for the excuse du jour (the weather, the economy, etc.) to explain
away mediocre performance.

George Anderson – Moderator

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