Walmart lately has been a whirlwind of activity on global, national and local levels, but Judith McKenna, CEO of Walmart’s international division, speaking at an investors conference, offered some perspective on where the company is headed.
Internationally, Walmart has been making big moves, pulling out of the United Kingdom, for example, with the sale of its ASDA business and investing more in India among ongoing global operations.
In speaking at the DbAccess Global Consumer Conference, as transcribed by SeekingAlpha, McKenna (pictured above) outlined how Walmart is moving to be what can be characterized as a “nimble” retailer despite its massive scope.
“If I look and I think about the journey for the U.S. and I think about the journey for all of our international markets, there are probably three things that stand out to me that are the recipe if you like, ingredients to be able to be successful in an innovation space,” she said. “The first thing is you’ve got to be customer-centric. And I think the events of the last 14 to 15 months have made us more customer-centric than we’ve ever been before. We’re using data to understand more, we’re using better insights and to really stay on the front foot.”
The second ingredient involves the approach to technology. “You’ve got to be inquisitive and open about new technology and uses,” she said.
Application remains a critical figure for Walmart. Walmart wants to define the challenges it’s trying to address “rather than how can I use this to do something,” McKenna said, “and I think we’ve gotten way better at that over the years.”
Third is a question of corporate culture and how to retain and use talent at a time when from store level up employees are being asked to perform more complex tasks while interacting with advanced technology. Walmart recently took a step toward improving its employee/technology interaction with a decision to give large numbers of its workers smartphones they can use to better access its management software.
“The environment that I think that (CEO) Doug (McMillan) and the entire leadership team are creating is a place where the right talent with the right capabilities, really wants to come and work,” McKenna said.
Walmart wants to more effectively apply employee energies — especially in expanding service roles revolving around curbside pickup and delivery — and ultimately satisfy customers. So, the company is looking to pair technology and employees more effectively to maximize the attractiveness and efficiency of new initiatives.
“If you think about one of the areas we’re probably becoming well known for, and it’s been fascinating to watch this journey, is automation,” McKenna noted. “Yes, it takes investments to get automation into the business, but ultimately, it pays massive dividends, improves your customer service, because you can pick more efficiency, your accuracy is better, but equally as a productivity benefit for you as well.”
Walmart continues to advance a range of actions closer to home. In support of local neighborhoods, Walmart recently announced that is opening up Community Academy, a free program that leverages a network of more than 200 Walmart Academies in stores across the country to offer educational opportunities to anyone, employee or not. Andy Trainor, Walmart’s vp/learning, stated that Community Academy virtual courses are available nationwide at no cost, with topics ranging from resume building and interviewing skills to budget and finance, standardized test preparation and navigating college admissions. Walmart organizes classes under the themes Home, Community, Personal Finance, Career Progression and Technology, and will expand the scope of the program throughout the year.
Walmart also has added a benefit to its subscription membership program. Walmart+ hasn’t lived up to expectations in new member sign-ups or retention, something company executives conceded in Walmart’s latest conference call. But they hinted that the company would tie Walmart+ in with its expanding wellness, health and medical initiatives. The company has created Walmart+ Rx, a prescription discount program offering select medications at zero cost and thousands of additional prescription medications up to 85% off.