2019 Top 100 Retailers Power Players: Mass Merchants

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Walmart is having a much easier time making itself a force in ecommerce than Amazon.com is having trying to establish itself as a major player in the physical world. Walmart keeps matching Amazon’s quick-delivery moves “without a membership fee,” as it reminds its customers, who don’t have to pay Prime rates.

Walmart, as does Amazon, sees digital advertising as a growing profit center for its Media Group. The recent acquisition of Polymorph Labs will help scale online advertising, which uses Walmart customer data to target both online shoppers and bricks-and-mortar customers. The Polymorph transaction came only a couple of months after Walmart brought all of its advertising in house.

“In-house is everything,” says Stefanie Jay, head of Walmart Media Group. “For us to be able to serve our advertisers holistically and strategically, we have to own the whole dialogue end-to-end. It’s critical as we think about scaling the business. Buyers don’t just want one piece of a campaign, they want a full marketing solution.”

Walmart says 160 million people shop its stores or online sites every week, allowing it to provide considerable insight to advertisers about what customers are looking at and what they are purchasing. “Our bread and butter is first-party transaction data, both in store and online. Only we can see that and connect the dots,” Jay says. “In my mind, that’s the differentiator. No one can do that, and especially not at our scale.”

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon says he expects online sales to increase 35 percent this year, on top of a 40 percent gain last year. In addition to investments in the digital business, Walmart is remodeling stores with brighter lighting, wider aisles and more self-checkouts. With a nod to both online and offline retailing, McMillon says, “The magic for us is how we bring the two together. It results in an omnichannel experience.” And, he says, “That is our advantage, and that is what we are working on.”

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