Since its inception in 1962, Walmart has always been a front-runner in the retail industry. However, in 2011, Walmart was lagging behind in digital business. Its e-commerce site was basic, lacking in intuitive search and its e-commerce revenue was rising linearly way behind Amazon and Staples. Fast-forward to today, and Walmart is accelerating its digital transformation, capitalizing on several early wins. Between 2011 and 2014, Walmart’s e-commerce sales grew nearly 150% from $4.9 billion to $12.2 billion. Today, Walmart has overtaken Staples to become the world’s third largest online retailer after Amazon and Apple, in terms of 2014 online sales.
So, how did Walmart transform itself from a traditional retail giant to a rising digital star?
The answer lies in Walmart’s aggressive foray into digital, starting during the reign of ex-CEO Mike Duke. Mike Duke wanted to transform Walmart from a company known for its rigid yet effective business processes into one that was “entrepreneurial, experimental and flexible”. In a 2011 address, he said: “In global e‐commerce, we will not just be competing; we will play to win”. True to his words in the years that followed, Walmart laid a foundation to play a lead role in the next generation of retail. Armed with units that foster digital innovation – Global eCommerce and @WalmartLabs, Walmart is reinventing itself for a digital age. Walmart is converging its traditional strengths in distribution networks with digital innovations in newer ways to drive growth.
Walmart’s digital transformation offers numerous lessons and insights for other major enterprises looking to innovate in a digital economy.