Walmart Inc. is increasingly signaling that its growth strategy is premised on building on its online marketplace and banking on e-commerce, while also expanding other ventures, including its advertising, financial and health care businesses.
The retailer, which has been highlighting its expanding reach over the past year, has been investing in developing new services, and revamping its processes and internal infrastructure around the goal of following customers where they shop, John Furner, Walmart U.S. president and chief executive officer, told Robby Ohmes, managing director, Bank of America Securities, on Thursday at the BofA Securities consumer and retail technology conference.
“We had a store team and an e-commerce team, and we now have a merchandise team, a marketing team and the customer team, all thinking about the customer and how the customer wants to shop across any channel that they want to engage in,” Furner said.
The retailer’s growth strategy so far has led to its U.S. comp sales growing roughly 8.6 percent in the past year, according to its fourth-quarter earnings report last month. Walmart U.S. net sales increased $29 billion for the year, according to the report.
In recent months Walmart has also highlighted its media and advertising business, which it rebranded from Walmart Media Group to Walmart Connect. In January, the retailer said it was aiming to position the effort to be among the top 10 advertising businesses in the U.S. by creating more channels to direct ads to Walmart shoppers.
Those channels would include “putting advertiser messages right next to where customers are making purchasing decisions,” online and using its customer shopping data to support advertisers, the retailer said at the time.
“We’ve got a strong growing marketplace business,” Furner said. “We have new services that we can offer sellers like fulfillment. We’re bullish on the advertising business. We think that’s definitely a top 10 advertising business in the country in a few years. I remain really optimistic about the potential in health care and financial services.
“Having said all that, the team is well positioned to be able to do that without losing momentum in the core of the retail business,” he added. “And Supercenters are fantastic, it’s the biggest part of the business.”
Walmart has been expanding into health care, going beyond pharmacies and their usual basic services including flu shots, to opening clinics. The retailer has opened more than 20 clinics around the country, including in Georgia.
“I’m also excited about…being able to help customers manage their health digitally,” Furner said. “You can refill your prescriptions online. We can deliver your prescriptions in a number of places.
“The environment has changed, and so we’re constantly reevaluating what we’re doing, how fast we can go, what else it is that we can do for customers that connect health care, the demand for health, with providers and do it in a way that’s convenient for the customer,” he said.