Walmart Sees Ecommerce Grow 74% During Pandemic

Discount chain has visibility into customers' entire shopping journey

Stefanie Jay, vp and general manager of Walmart Media Group, discussed the retailer's new digital moves at NexTech 2020. - Credit by Adweek
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Key insight:

For Walmart, the world’s largest omnichannel retailer, it has been a dramatic past few months as the chain continues to invest in its digital operations to meet the demands of modern shoppers.

As part of its evolution during the pandemic, the retail giant expanded in-demand offerings such as self-checkout screens, pick-up and delivery services, and mobile touch points for the customer while they are in the store, according to Stefanie Jay, vp and general manager of Walmart Media Group.

“It certainly has been an incredible year,” Jay said in conversation with Adweek senior reporter Lisa Lacy at the NexTech 2020 Virtual Summit on Monday. “You see a big acceleration in adoption of ecommerce.”

The numbers indicate just how big: Walmart’s ecommerce business grew 74% during the pandemic, monthly search volume was up more than 70% in 2020, and pickup and delivery by new customers quadrupled, Jay said.


“Our biggest strength is really to engage with customers across that entire shopping journey, wherever they want to shop,” she said.

That’s because Walmart was not only considered an essential business during the pandemic, but is also a food business and general merchandise retailer broadly.

That, in turn, means Walmart Media Group can see the entire shopping experience, and both target and measure customers across that journey as well as find them at different touch points, Jay explained.

That includes how consumers are thinking about holiday shopping.

“It’s an interesting time with every community having a different circumstance, and so I think that one of the key takeaways from Covid for the last few months is people are still celebrating these moments,” Jay said.

That includes Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and July 4, and going forward days such as Halloween and Christmas.

Consumers are continuing to commemorate these moments either virtually or with socially distanced events. “Despite the pandemic, [there is] still a lot of focus on these key moments,” she added.

As a result, and due to the uncertainty around how the coming months will play out, brands are having to stay nimble in planning for different scenarios. That includes suppliers who are thinking about partnering with Walmart on such major seasonal moments, Jay said.

Brands are also more budget conscious, as they are increasing their digital advertising spend and their retail media spend due to an increase in online shopping, she noted.

Jay also said to expect more customized solutions, which the company is working on with its advertisers. “We’re really leaning into different programs—some of them longer, some of them shorter, some of them targeted to different specific audiences—and it’s pretty neat to see,” she said, ticking off verticals such as food and beverage, costumes and beauty. “These are all things that are really top of mind for people right now, and marketers.

“My CMO clients are really thinking about their jobs differently I think,” she added. “The evolution of the CMO is often a theme that we often talk about. I think that attribution is at the fore of that.”

CMOs are thought of as driving real business results now and not just messaging, at the core of which are accountability and attribution, she noted.

Getting the kind of transaction and shopper data Walmart offers is difficult, especially seeing it across categories, in-store and online. “That’s why we feel really good about our value [proposition],” Jay said. “We can really tell the marketer if someone saw an ad online and actually walked into the store and made a purchase.”

Among Walmart.com customers, 62% say the online shopping experience influenced their in-store experience, underlining how these two avenues are in fact very integrated.

“It’s really important for us to be showing them relevant ads through this journey,” to drive purchases in-store and online, she noted.


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@RichCollings richard.collings@adweek.com Richard Collings is a retail reporter at Adweek.
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