Marketers on Fire: Walmart CMO on Retail Innovation, Customer Experience and Social Commerce

Posted on by Kaylee Hultgren

When consumers think of Walmart as a brand, “innovative” may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But while speaking at a session at MMA Global’s POSSIBLE conference earlier this month, CMO William White aimed to dispel that myth, providing several examples of how the company is innovating across the board—despite its mammoth size. “You see it in all manner of our business, from supply chain to how we go to market,” he told the crowd. “Innovation is popping up in different parts of the company at all times.”

Take being the first retailer to offer drone delivery service, or rolling out a new open creator platform, called Walmart Creator, which, through influencer collaborations, incentivizes users to scale their businesses and drive sales. Each innovation, White explained, ties back to the brand’s relentless focus on how consumer expectations are evolving.

“Our business is fast,” he said. “We run from groceries to apparel to healthcare to financial services, et cetera. So we’re looking across variety of industries for, what are the things that are moving the needle? What are the things that are attracting customers? What are the things that are raising their expectations? And that’s done on a global scale.”

One way in which that has materialized is through its delivery options. Walmart currently offers drone delivery for 36 of its stores, and it also offers in-home delivery service for thousands more, which includes the added service of associates putting groceries away in the home. “That’s something that scaled pretty quickly,” White said. “And that was a small idea that we saw potential for and invested in it.”

Recently, Walmart has turned its attention to the overall customer experience. In order to keep up with customer expectations, senior executives across the company gather each Monday, White explained, to discuss and evaluate business results, from the in-store experience to the friendliness of associates to the speed of checkout to pick-up and delivery. “We gain a lot of insights into the things that we’re doing that drive positive and negative customer experience,” he said. “Everyone understands they have a role in the customer experience. And ultimately that’s a reflection of our brand, and really drives our way forward.”

The ability to evaluate customer experience is particular to the retail industry, according to White, who spent eight years as a global brand director at Coca-Cola. “The speed of retail is a lot faster than CPG… You see your scorecard every day, when you hit that early morning email with the previous day’s sales numbers. I think that the opportunity to make subtle, meaningful changes in the customer experience really moves the needle.”

Social commerce as a means to drive that customer experience is an area of focus for the retailer, White said. “As a marketing industry, we talk so much about different parts of the funnel… The cool thing about social commerce [is that] the whole funnel is right there… It’s brand building, it’s driving consideration and you can drive scale all in a very short, condensed path… It’s shortening that distance between inspiration and purchase.”

Case in point: Walmart recently jumped into the creator economy space with its new seller platform, Walmart Creator. “It’s an open platform where anyone can do it, and they’re incented and monetized based on what they sell. The great content is going to continue to rise to the top.” When asked whether creator economies are here to stay, White assured the crowd that the company believes it’s worth the investment. “Social commerce as a space is a large, meaty number with high growth,” he said. “I certainly don’t think it’s a shiny object or a flash in the pan. There are some creators that are scaling and driving greater power than others.”


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