Walmart looks to e-commerce for growth
New York — Walmart is emphasizing e-commerce for growth, said Neil Ashe, the chain’s president and CEO of global e-commerce, said during an investor presentation Wednesday morning.
Speaking at the Barclay’s 2013 Retail and Consumer Discretionary Conference in New York, Ashe laid out a vision for Walmart’s approach to e-commerce that involves home-grown technology, a deeper integration with physical stores and a dramatic expansion of product assortments because Walmart is one of the few companies who has brand permission to sell everything to everyone.
He also said Walmart was committed to being at the forefront of technological innovation and this week planned to introduce a new home page that reflects how people want to shop. Ashe said Walmart’s simple, yet audacious e-commerce goal is to, “know every product and person in the world and have ability to connect them.” To do so, Ashe said Walmart made a decision last year to in-source development of its technology which led to the creation of a proprietary search engine.
“We can’t do what we need to do and want to do with off the shelf solutions,” Ashe said.
Development of the search engine and other technological capabilities are essential to the philosophy outline by Ashe which calls for Walmart to excel at the fundamentals of e-commerce.
“If you want to build something really big that is going to last forever you better get the foundation right,” Ashe said.
In addition to technology, Ashe also described other foundational elements of Walmart’s approach as customer acquisition and retention, category development and assortment, customer experience and fulfilling promises.
Although Ashe, who joined Walmart in January 2012, characterized e-commerce as Walmart’s next growth engine he made no reference to Walmart.com’s sales or financial contribution and there was scant discussion of other performance metrics aside publicly available details from third parties. For example, Walmart.com has 45 million unique monthly visitors and the company’s home delivery operation in the United Kingdom is the second largest.
Walmart currently has an e-commerce presence in 10 countries, but is primarily focused on driving growth in the U.S., China, Brazil and the United Kingdom, where an investor field trip was held last week.
Domestically, Ashe was asked about the impact of the Marketplace Fairness Act and the impact of a level taxation playing field. He quoted former Walmart president and CEO Lee Scott who once questioned how a 5% to 10% price difference wasn’t a competitive advantage. According to Ashe, Walmart sees its best growth in states where sales taxes are collected from all players.
Union derides Target as ‘Walmart junior’ following NLRB ruling
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1500 representing the greater New York area claimed victory over Target this week and offered some harsh words following a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board.
What got the UFCW excited was a ruling by the NLRB that affirmed an administrative law judge’s decision of May 2012, which ordered a new union election be held at Target’s store in Valley Stream, New York. Target was also ordered to halt activities that voided the first union election directedTarget to modify all existing and future employee handbooks throughout the country and remove all wording that the NLRB found violated federal labor law.
"This is an overwhelming victory for Target workers not just in the Valley Stream Target but throughout the United States," said Bruce W. Both, president of UFCW local 1500. "It is especially satisfying that the decision be announced as workers around the world today are celebrating May Day and sending the message that working men and women will fight every day, for as long as it takes until irresponsible corporations like Target respect our nation’s laws, the laws of other nations and the rights of their workers to form and join a Union."
According to a UFCW press release, the NLRB ruling upheld a May 18th, 2012 administrative law judge’s decision that Target maintained illegal no-solicitation policies, threatened employees with closure of the Valley Stream store should they vote for the union, created an impression of illegal surveillance, conducted coercive employee interrogations and threatened employees with discipline for supporting the union.
"It was shocking to all of us involved that this once proud company would get in the gutter with the Walmart’s of the world and prove to be no better when it comes to responsible treatment of their employees and their respect for federal law," said Aly Waddy, director of special projects for UFCW Local 1500.
Waddy went on to add that Target’s business model is based on suppression of workers’ rights and public deception about employee treatment and that the union would continue to shine its brightest light on a company it characterized as having increasingly dark business practices. Typically, such harsh statements from the UFCW are reserved for Walmart, whereas Target is a more recent target.
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OfficeMax streamlines B2B e-commerce site
NAPERVILLE, Ill. — OfficeMax has launched a new search engine with content and navigation improvements on its OfficeMax WorkplaceSM business-to-business e-commerce site, OfficeMaxWorkplace.com. Since phasing in improvements last month, all aimed to deliver a streamlined online shopping experience, the site has experienced increases in conversion rate, average revenue per visit and positive customer feedback.
OfficeMax Workplace enlisted input from its business customers to help identify and validate upgrades that were most important to help organizations gain greater efficiency and control of their online procurement processes.
"Listening to our customers to help shape these search and navigation upgrades further supports our commitment to being a strategic partner and delivering solutions that help address the needs of their businesses," said John Kenning, EVP and president of OfficeMax Workplace. "Our customers are telling us how much they enjoy shopping on our improved site, and how quick and convenient the shopping experience is."
New site features include re-organized shopping categories to more closely align with how customers shop on the site, as well as type-ahead text which more accurately anticipates customer queries and showcases recommendations on products, brands and other search terms. OfficeMax Workplace also added thousands of product pages and updated thousands of product characteristics to make products more visible and help customers more quickly refine, sort and view their product searches based on parameters such as brand, color and relevant product attributes.
"Search and navigation are key for our customers to be able to purchase what they need quickly and conveniently to get back to the task of running their businesses," said Jim Barr, OfficeMax EVP and chief digital officer. "These improvements are also crucial for our success as an Internet product and solutions provider, and represent our long-term commitment to providing e-commerce solutions for our business-to-business customers."
The search engine and navigation upgrades are among many ongoing improvements that OfficeMax Workplace is making to its business-to-business e-commerce platforms. Late last year, OfficeMax Workplace launched a new site design to make the procurement process easier and more intuitive. Thousands of new products were also added in the first quarter.
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