Meanwhile, Walmart has overhauled its e-commerce unit in the San
Francisco Bay Area and changed its connection to the mother
Joel Anderson, based at corporate headquarters in Bentonville,
Ark., took over as president of Walmart .com in the U.S.
With the unit reporting to Bentonville, store managers now get
credit for online sales from their area, giving them new incentives
to promote Walmart .com.
Former CBS Interactive CEO Neil Ashe was appointed president of
Walmart 's global e-commerce unit in January; within about a month,
it had bought a majority stake in Chinese e-tailer Yihaodian.
Amid all the revamps, Walmart has pumped out digital-marketing
initiatives at a frenetic pace. They include the company's first
iPad app, as well as an overhauled iPhone app that incorporates
Siri, home barcode-scanning and automatic generation of shopping
lists that integrate digital coupons.
The unit also launched its Shopycat app, which analyzes Facebook
friends' "likes" and comments to develop gift suggestions; and "Get
on the Shelf," a digital "American Idol" for prospective Walmart
vendors to get their items in front of buyers.
The latter idea -- which came from an engineer at Walmart Labs
-- illustrates how the giant's foray into Silicon Valley is
reconfiguring not just its marketing but its business processes and
culture, according to Anand Rajaraman, the company's senior
VP-global e-commerce and the head of Walmart Labs.
"It's the idea that you can do some experiments and take some
risks," Mr. Rajaraman said. "It's OK if some of these experiments
fail, but you build on the successes."
If anything, Walmart Labs is looking to pick up the pace. Now
with about 200 employees in the Valley, the unit continues to hire
and scout for "interesting companies with interesting talent," Mr.
Rajaraman said. Competing with Google, LinkedIn, Facebook and Zynga
for hires, "we win more than our fair share of battles, because
what we're doing is a very unique thing -- developing the next
generation of shopping," he said.
Walmart is also ramping up digital efforts in Bentonville,
including the ambitious My Local Walmart on Facebook. Launched in
October, the program aims to create distinct social communities for
more than 3,500 stores.
"When we asked what people wanted from Walmart on Facebook, they
asked for information about their local stores -- from Rollbacks to
how to find new products," said Wanda Young, senior
Signs have popped up at Walmart checkouts urging shoppers to
like their local stores and join the social communities. Ms. Young
said she hopes to see store managers get involved as the voices of
"This really goes back to the roots of what Walmart is about,"
Ms. Young said. "Sam Walton would go into stores and talk to
customers and listen, and then go in and talk to associates and
Comments on Walmart 's Facebook wall helped spur the decision to
bring back layaway over the holidays, Mr.. Young said.
The feedback also increasingly informs other merchandising
"My team spends a lot of time working with our merchandising
organization to share when we've done product posts, what was the
commentary, the sentiment and how did it perform," Ms. Young
"We've actually had instances when feedback on a product led to
a packaging change on-shelf because the manufacturer recognized
that there was confusion, she said. "It's a day-in, day-out part of
the marketing conversation."
Correction: A previous edition of the story listed the title of
Joel Anderson, president of Walmart .com, incorrectly as CEO.