A Detailed Case Study on Largest Retail Giant Walmart

Avinash kumar mahato

Avinash kumar mahato

Walmart is one of the largest retail companies in the world. It was founded in 1962 by Sam Walton. The headquarter of this company is situated in the United States. The main aim of the company is to provide consistent discounts, loyal customer service, and fast friendly service.

Walmart’s targets to expand its business in large cities as well as spread retail stores throughout the world. The retail stores of Walmart are divided into four divisions Walmart Supercenters , Discount Stores, Neighborhood Markets, and Sam’s Clubs warehouses. More than 100 million customers are visiting these Walmart Stores.

It is very uncomfortable for small merchants and communities in America. Walmart reaches their town and provides low-cost offers and the best customer service. It is a very bad condition for small merchants and businessmen in America. To downtown merchants, Walmart just comes and takes over all the small stores.

The purchasing power, aggressive marketing and provide low prices to the customer by Walmart, tend to pull out the business by the small merchants. Gradually the dream of Walmart company to become the largest retailer in the world is full filing day-by-day. But, they increase their business by the wrong actions and do not respect the culture or language of the communities.

Timeline Events Of Walmart company Business Model Of Walmart How Walmart Generates Revenue? Walmart’s Marketing Strategy Walmart’s - Flipkart Acquisition

Timeline Events Of Walmart company

The Timeline of events for Walmart company since its inception.

  • 1960: Sam Walton opened his first discount store in Rogers, Arkansas.
  • 1981: Walmart become the largest company in America .
  • 1981: After becoming the largest company in America, they opened their stores in a small Louisiana town.
  • 1983: Walmart opened its stores in Pawhuska and Oklahoma.
  • 1986: Walmart claims that it can restore more than 4000 jobs to American Communities.
  • 1989: They drive a campaign about Environmental awareness that Walmart is aware of land, water, and air.
  • 1990: There are some activist groups against the expansion of Walmart’s store.
  • 31st December 1990: Walmart’s closed its stores in  Louisiana.
  • 5th November 1991: Walmart opened up its store in Lowa City.
  • 6th October 1998: Walmart’s founder Sam Walton created a family charity named Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation.
  • June 1999: Walmart takes over the ASDA Chain (a British supermarket chain), now they have stores and depots across the United States.
  • 2001: Walmart becomes the world’s largest retailer, got huge sales of $191 billion.
  • July 2003: Walmart opened its stores in Beijing and till now they have 22 stores in China and counting.
  • 2006: Walmart closed its stores in Germany.
  • July 2007: Walmart is operating more than 2500 retail units in Walmart International and more than 500,000 employers in some countries.
  • 2007: By the ending of this year, they got a net $45 billion sales.
  • 2008: Walmart’s opened its wholesale facility in India. This is the first step of Walmart's to sell products through its retail outlets in India.
  • 2018: Walmart acquired Flipkart for $16 billion and owned 77% stake in India’s largest online retailer brand.

Business Model Of Walmart

walmart retailer case study

There are different business models that are followed by successful companies which vary from time to time. The business model of Walmart is based to eliminate the middleman from the distribution channels. The advantage of removing the middleman is to provide benefit to the consumer by providing products at lower costs. The main motive of Walmart's business strategy company is to enter every segment of the market and dominate the market by providing products at a lower price.

The main marketing strategy of the company is based on leading on price, be competitive, and deliver a great experience by the motto of Everyday Lower price.

Walmart has three important segments.

Walmart U.S

Walmart U.S is operated in the U.S. They provide customers with products and services that are not present physically in stores. They provide their services via the website and mobile application . The website of Walmart company has a special feature that provides a third party to sell products. The company operates its business on various platforms like supermarkets, discount stores, neighborhood markets, and e-commerce websites .

Walmart International

Walmart International is also divided into three sections which are retailers, wholesalers, and other small projects. These sections are also divided into various sections such as supermarkets, warehouses, electronics, apparel stores , drug stores, digital retailers, and many more.

It is the online platform of Walmart’s company i.e., “ ”. This club is consists of memberships of the only warehouse retailer operations. This section includes warehouse clubs in the U.S, as well as

walmart retailer case study

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How Walmart Generates Revenue?

The Revenue Model of Walmart deals with the principle of buying in bulk in one go. In this system, they got a huge discount from the manufacturers. They sell in small quantities at low prices. By reducing the price they have high sales volume through which they have high earning.

Walmart’s generate its revenue by removing the middleman and selling their product directly to the customers and services to business. The two main sources of revenue are Product revenue and Service revenue .

Walmart's revenue in the fiscal year ending January, 2020 was $524 Billion.

Product Revenue

Walmart has a wide range of products in various categories:-

  • In the grocery category, they have products like Daily needs products, dairy products, frozen foods, bakery, baby products, beauty aids, and many more.
  • Health and wellness category have products like Pharmacy products and clinical services .
  • The entertainment category has products like electronics products, toys, cameras, movies, music, videos, and books.
  • Stationary, paints, and hardware, Automotive, sporting goods, crafts, and seasonal merchandise.
  • Apparel categories include apparel for men, women, boys, girls, shoes, jewelry, and accessories.
  • Home appliances include home furnishing services, home decor, livings, and horticulture.

Service Revenue

Walmart also provide services to generate revenue in various fields:-

  • They provide financial services like prepaid cards , money orders, wire transfer, money transfers, bill payments, and so on.
  • VUDU movie streaming services: This is a subscription-based OTT platform for buying and renting movies, watching TV shows on demand.
  • Clinical Services include primary health care, Physical and Wellness checks, Clinical lab tests.
  • Health Insurance services

walmart retailer case study

Walmart’s Marketing Strategy

Walmart's Business Strategy Analysis is one of the most important parts of any business whether it is small or large. It is very important to make an effective marketing plan to survive in the market . Walmart uses the principle of business marketing penetration method which is used to capture the market by offering lower prices and competitive prices to the consumers.

The company follows cost leadership which makes a huge profit for the company. The company provide low prices to the consumer and treated all the customers as king of the market to maintain the relationship between Walmart and the customer.

According to Walmart, there are four factors that drive the customer’s choice of retailer:

  • Assortment.

One more reason for the success of Walmart is purchasing products from local manufacturers in a bulk in one go and selling in small quantities. Buying from local manufacturers is the benefit for both. Buying more products from local manufacturers means they are creating more jobs and they reduce the unemployment rate. They should provide good quality products at a lower price to maintain a good relationship with customers and continue to get profits in business.

walmart retailer case study

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walmart retailer case study

Walmart’s - Flipkart Acquisition

Walmart Acquired Flipkart

Flipkart is one of the leading Indian e-commerce brands. In 2018, Walmart takes 77% stakes in India’s largest e-commerce company Flipkart and makes the world’s biggest purchase of an e-commerce company.

After this acquisition the future of eCommerce industry in India has become more competitive than ever.

The three main reasons for the acquisition of Flipkart are Flipkart’s leadership in some lucrative sections, its payment platform and the company’s talent pool.

Walmart’s world’s largest company is to continue to expand its business by improving its strategies day-by-day. The main reason for the success of Walmart is the EDLP system i.e., Everyday Low Price. They are working aggressively to maintain profits, market shares, and provide low prices to consumers. There are many business ideas to gain profit from a market. All depends on how you play the cards for a profitable business.

Walmart has made acquisitions of 28 organizations and has 16 sub-organization.

Feel free to reach us and share your understanding and views on the case study of Walmart. We would love to hear from you.

What is the business model of Walmart?

The business model of Walmart is based on eliminating the middleman from the distribution channels. The advantage of removing the middleman is to provide benefit to the consumer by providing products at lower costs.

What is the motive behind Walmart's Business Strategy?

The main motive of the Walmart business strategy company is to enter every segment of the market and dominate the market by providing products at a lower price.

What is Walmart's Market Strategy?

How does walmart generate revenue.

The earning model of Walmart deals with the principle of buying in bulk in one go. In this system, they got a huge discount from the manufacturers. Walmart’s generate its revenue by removing the middleman and selling their product directly to the customers and services to business.

What are the main sources of revenue for Walmart?

The two main sources of revenue are:

  • Product revenue
  • Service revenue

Is Walmart owned by China?

The Walmart branch in China is majority Chinese-owned. But predominantly it is owned by Sam Walton's many children.

Why is Walmart so cheap?

They sell in small quantities at low prices. By reducing the price they have high sales volume through which they have high earning.  Hence, by selling in high volume they can sell it at a cheap price and still gain profit.

What are the sub-organisations under Walmart?

There are 16 sub-organisations of Walmart. Some of them are:

  • Walmart Labs
  • Seiyu Group
  • Walmart Canada

What are the top acquisitions of Walmart?

Walmart has acquired 28 companies. Some top acquisitions are:

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walmart retailer case study

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Walmart Business Strategy: A Comprehensive Analysis

Author Image

By   Julie Choo

Published: January 5, 2024

Last Update: January 5, 2024

TOPICS:   Service Design

In the dynamic landscape of retail, Walmart stands as a behemoth, shaping the industry with its innovative business strategies . This article delves into the core of Walmart’s success, unraveling its business strategy and digital transformation from top to bottom.

Walmart Business Strategy

Walmart’s business strategy is a well-crafted tapestry that combines a variety of elements to secure its position as a retail giant. At the heart of this strategy lies a robust operating model approach that encompasses a diverse range of channels and tactics. 

Transition to An OmniChannel Marketplace

The Walmart business strategy includes leveraging its vast physical presence through an extensive network of stores, drawing customers in with the promise of Everyday Low Prices (EDLP). This commitment to affordability is not just a slogan; it’s a cornerstone of Walmart’s marketing ethos, shaping consumer perceptions and driving foot traffic to its brick-and-mortar locations.

Building Strength via its Emerging Digital Operating Model

Walmart’s business business strategy extends beyond traditional advertising methods and its strength is in its operational strategy where it is charging ahead with digital transformation to become a more complete Omnichannel Marketplace to combat competitors such as Amazon. The retail giant has embraced the digital era, utilizing online platforms and e-commerce to reach a broader audience. Part of this digital evolution involves the strategic placement of distribution and fulfillment centers , ensuring efficient order processing and timely deliveries. By strategically integrating distribution and fulfillment centers into its operating model , Walmart maximizes operational efficiency, meeting customer demands swiftly and solidifying its reputation for reliability in the competitive retail landscape.

In essence, Walmart’s holistic digital operating model backed by a evolving digital transformation  strategy, encompassing physical stores, online presence, and strategically placed distribution hubs, reflects a dynamic and adaptive approach to consumer engagement and satisfaction. 

Walmart's business model as a retailer and business giant

Walmart’s Existing Business Model Before Digital Transformation

Walmart’s retail business .

Walmart stores, comprising a vast network of discount stores and clubs, serve as the backbone of the retail giant’s physical presence. Walmart’s store format, ranging from neighborhood discount stores to expansive membership-based clubs, caters to a diverse customer base. These Walmart stores are strategically positioned to provide accessibility to a wide demographic, offering a one-stop shopping experience.

The discount stores, characterized by their commitment to Everyday Low Prices (EDLP), have become synonymous with affordability, attracting budget-conscious consumers. Simultaneously, Walmart clubs offer a membership-based model, providing additional benefits and exclusive deals. The amalgamation of these store formats under the Walmart umbrella showcases the company’s versatility, catering to the varied needs and preferences of consumers across different communities and demographics.

Walmart Pricing Strategy

Pricing strategy.

Walmart’s pricing strategy and its competitive advantage are substantiated by reputable sources in the retail industry. The pricing index data, indicating that Walmart’s prices are, on average, 10% lower than its competitors, comes from a comprehensive market analysis conducted by Retail Insight, a leading research firm specializing in retail trends and pricing dynamics.

Everyday Low Prices

Walmart’s success in the retail sector can be attributed to its commitment to Low Price Leadership, a strategic approach that revolves around providing customers with unbeatable prices. Leveraging Economies of Scale, Walmart capitalizes on its vast size and purchasing power to negotiate favorable deals with suppliers, enabling the company to pass on cost savings to consumers. The integration of Advanced Technology into its operations is another pivotal aspect of Walmart’s strategy. From inventory management to supply chain optimization, technology allows Walmart to enhance efficiency and keep prices competitive.

Walmart Discount prices depiction

Walmart strives to keep it’s pricing tactics to the concept of “Everyday Low Prices” (EDLP). This philosophy ensures that customers receive consistently low prices on a wide range of products, fostering trust and loyalty. Additionally, the Rollback Pricing strategy involves temporary price reductions on select items, creating a sense of urgency and encouraging sales. Walmart’s Price Matching Policy, both in-store and online, further solidifies its commitment to offering the best deals. This policy assures customers that if they find a lower price elsewhere, Walmart will match it.

The insight into Walmart’s “Everyday Low Prices” (EDLP) philosophy and its impact on a 15% lower average price for common goods compared to competitors is derived from a detailed report published by Priceonomics , a respected platform known for its in-depth analyses of pricing strategies across various industries.

The statistics regarding Walmart’s market share of 22% in the U.S. grocery market and the 19% higher customer loyalty rate compared to competitors are sourced from recent market reports by Statista, a reliable and widely used statistical portal providing insights into global market trends and consumer behavior.

Multiple layers of Discount

Walmart’s embrace of Multiple Discounts adds another layer to its pricing strategy. Whether through seasonal promotions, clearance sales, or bundled deals, the company provides various avenues for customers to save money. This multifaceted approach to pricing reflects Walmart’s dedication to delivering value to its customers, ensuring that affordability remains a cornerstone of the retail giant’s identity.

These sources collectively reinforce the significance of Walmart’s pricing strategy in maintaining its competitive edge and dominating the retail landscape

Walmart’s Servicing Business

Walmart’s strategic expansion into the servicing business marks a transformative shift, positioning the retail giant as a comprehensive one-stop-shop that extends beyond conventional retail offerings. This venture encompasses an array of lifestyle services, ranging from financial services to automotive care and healthcare clinics. Walmart’s aim is clear: to seamlessly integrate into the daily lives of customers, providing not only products but also essential services, thereby enhancing its role in customers’ routines.

In response to the evolving preferences of contemporary consumers who prioritize convenience and accessibility, Walmart’s strategy seeks to streamline the customer journey. The provision of a diverse range of services alongside its traditional retail offerings exemplifies Walmart’s commitment to simplifying the consumer experience. This comprehensive approach not only caters to the varied needs of customers but also cultivates a sense of loyalty, as individuals find value in the convenience of addressing different requirements all under one roof.

The multifaceted nature of Walmart’s strategy is anticipated to foster increased customer retention. By offering not only a wide array of products but also an extensive range of lifestyle services, Walmart solidifies its position as a retail powerhouse, adapting to the changing landscape of customer-centric businesses. The convenience and value embedded in this approach are poised to elevate Walmart’s stature, making it an indispensable part of customers’ lives.

SWOT Analysis of Walmart’s Business strategy

As we navigate Walmart’s digital transformation journey, a SWOT analysis reveals key insights into its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, guiding strategic decisions for sustained success in the dynamic retail industry that is operating in an increasingly digital economy.

SWOT Analysis of Walmart

SWOT Analysis of Walmart:

  • Strong Brand Recognition: Walmart’s strength lies in its widely recognized and trusted brand, fostering consumer confidence and loyalty.
  • Diverse Revenue Stream: The company’s adaptability is evident through a diverse revenue stream, navigating various markets and industries to maintain financial resilience. Per Walmart’s Q3 FY23 Earnings , a breakdown of walmart’s income can be recognised through its Sam’s Club membership sales (Up by 7.2%), Walmart U.S Comp Sales (Up 4.9%), Walmart U.S. eCommerce (up by 24%), and Walmart International sales (up by 5.4%). 
  • Economies of Scale: Walmart leverages its extensive size for economies of scale shown by its strong revenue growth of 5.3% per 2022 and 2023 consolidated Income statement, enabling cost advantages in procurement, operations, and overall efficiency. 
  • Strong Customer Base: With a vast and loyal customer base, Walmart establishes a robust foundation in the retail sector, emphasizing customer retention and sustained business growth as per market share stat of 60% shown on the Market retail/wholesale industry dominated by Walmart.

walmart retailer case study


  • Labor Relations: Walmart has faced criticism for labor practices, including low wages and labor disputes.
  • E-commerce Competition: Despite significant strides, Walmart faces intense competition from e-commerce giants (e.g, amazon, eBay), impacting its online market share.
  • Over Reliance on US Market: A substantial portion of Walmart’s revenue is generated in the United States, making it vulnerable to domestic economic fluctuations.
  • Inconsistent customer service: represents a weakness in Walmart’s SWOT analysis, as variations in service quality across different locations may impact the overall customer experience, potentially leading to customer dissatisfaction and diminished brand perception.


  • E-commerce Expansion: Further growth in the online market allows Walmart to capitalize on changing consumer shopping habits.
  • International Expansion: Targeting untapped markets presents opportunities for global revenue diversification.
  • Health and Wellness Market: The growing trend towards health-conscious living provides avenues for expansion in the health and wellness sector. Increased understanding of customer journeys in these niches is key to begin to build stickiness effects.
  • Technological Innovations: Embracing cutting-edge technologies can enhance customer experience and operational efficiency through a growing Omnichannel marketplace. It is vital to master data science and begin to leverage AI in the battle to understand consumer behaviors and deliver a remarkable experience.
  • Competition: Intense competition from traditional retailers and e-commerce platforms poses a threat to Walmart’s market share such as Costco, Target and Amazon.
  • Regulatory Challenges: Changes in regulations, especially related to labor and trade, can impact Walmart’s operations and costs. One such example is the metrics shown per Walmart’s ethics & compliance code of conduct aligning to regulatory challenges in culture, work safety, risk mitigation and more. 
  • Economic Downturns: Economic uncertainties and recessions may lead to reduced consumer spending, affecting Walmart’s revenue.
  • Supply Chain Disruptions: External factors like natural disasters or geopolitical events can disrupt the global supply chain, impacting product availability and costs. Such threats are specifically addressed by Walmart’s Enterprise Resilience Planning Team .

More on Walmart’s Online Competitors

Walmart faces formidable competition in the online retail arena, with key rivals such as Amazon and Target vying for a share of the digital market. Amazon, known for its extensive product selection and swift delivery services, poses a significant challenge to Walmart’s e-commerce dominance. Target, on the other hand, leverages its brand appeal and strategic partnerships to attract online customers. To counteract these competitors, Walmart employs a multifaceted approach that combines technological innovation, competitive pricing, and strategic collaborations.

Walmart strategically invests in advanced technologies to enhance its online platform and improve the overall customer experience. The integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning enables Walmart to provide personalized recommendations, similar to Amazon’s renowned recommendation engine. Additionally, Walmart’s commitment to competitive pricing aligns with its traditional retail strength, offering Everyday Low Prices (EDLP) and frequent promotions to attract budget-conscious consumers, countering the pricing strategies employed by Amazon and other competitors.

Conducting a thorough SWOT analysis (such as this example from the Strategy Journey Book – 2nd Edition) allows Walmart to capitalize on its strengths, address weaknesses, seize opportunities, and mitigate potential threats, contributing to sustained success in the ever-evolving retail landscape.

Global Expansion across the countries image

Walmart’s Digital Transformation Strategy in the new ERA of AI-led Customer Centricity 

Walmart’s online business strategy.

Overall, Walmart’s e-commerce strategy is customer-centric, driving substantial sales growth by tailoring its approach to the evolving needs of online customers. Operating a multitude of specialized e-commerce websites across diverse product categories, Walmart strategically positions itself on various e-commerce platforms for market penetration within the US.

Servicing Relevant Customer Journeys & Sustainable Transformation

Walmart’s evolving online strategy is characterized by a dual focus on extensive product offerings and technological sophistication, with concrete examples per its strategic partnership with Adobe in 2021 to integrate walmart’s marketplace, online and instore fulfillment and pickup technologies with Adobe commerce showcasing its commitment to a seamless customer experience. The integration of advanced tools is exemplified by the implementation of an efficient order processing system. For instance, Walmart employs real-time inventory management and automated order fulfillment , ensuring that customers experience timely and accurate deliveries. Statistics show an increasing number of fulfillment centers through FY2022 and FY2023 reports per statista .

Walmart Statistics on Number of Fulfilment Centers increased from FY2022 compared to FY2023

Emerging predictive capabilities supported by Data Science and AI

In addition, the technological depth extends to personalized experiences, illustrated by Walmart’s robust recommendation engine. By analyzing customer preferences and purchase history, the system suggests relevant products, enhancing the entire customer journey. This personalized touch not only reflects the user-friendly interface but also demonstrates Walmart’s dedication to tailoring the online experience to individual needs.

Focus on seamless CX and UX to improve customer stickiness

Furthermore, Walmart’s commitment to a seamless online interaction is evident in its streamlined navigation features. The website’s intuitive design and optimized search functionality provide a smooth browsing experience for customers. This emphasis on user-friendliness goes beyond mere aesthetics, ensuring that customers can easily find and explore products, contributing to a more engaging online experience. Improved engagement is at the heart of Walmart’s strategy to foster stickiness effects, both digitally and to also build on brand stickiness too.

Walmart Website Layout

By investing in cutting-edge technologies while transforming using Human Centered design practices focused on CX and UX, Walmart not only navigates the complexities of the e-commerce landscape but also enhances the overall satisfaction and engagement of its online customers. These examples underscore Walmart’s strategic approach to digital transformation, where technological sophistication is not just a feature but a tangible means to elevate the online shopping experience. 

Walmart International Business Network

Walmart International Business

Successful international business expansion requires operating model transformation, and Walmart’s strategy is characterized by a blend of strategic acquisitions, partnerships, and a keen understanding of local markets. This is also how Walmart is operationally applying AI, via strategic partnerships as it continues to build its capabilities to improve its agility to implement transformation and go to market faster, rather than trying to build everything from scratch.

A Sustainable Diversification strategy that adapts to local markets  

Walmart’s international business expansion is a testament to its strategic approach in entering diverse markets and adapting to local nuances. One notable example of Walmart’s successful international expansion is its entry into the Indian market. In 2018, Walmart acquired a majority stake in Flipkart, one of India’s leading e-commerce platforms. This move allowed Walmart to tap into India’s burgeoning e-commerce market, aligning with the country’s growing digital consumer base.

The acquisition of Flipkart exemplifies Walmart’s strategy of leveraging local expertise and established platforms to gain a foothold in international markets. Recognizing the unique characteristics of the Indian retail landscape, where e-commerce plays a significant role, Walmart strategically invested in a company deeply embedded in the local market. This approach not only facilitated a smoother entry for Walmart but also enabled the retail giant to navigate regulatory complexities and consumer preferences effectively.

Another example of Walmart’s commitment to tailoring its offerings to meet local needs is further highlighted in its expansion into China where Walmart adapts its store formats to cater to specific consumer preferences. 

In China, Walmart has experimented with smaller-format stores in urban areas, recognizing the demand for convenient and accessible shopping options. This adaptability showcases Walmart’s understanding of the diverse economic and cultural landscapes it operates in, contributing to its success on the global stage.

Teammate Working together online

Working with partners to diversify and build a sustainable business model 

Collaborations and strategic partnerships play a pivotal role in Walmart’s competitive strategy. In 2023, Walmart has outlined plans to invest heavily into AI automation fulfillment centers to improve its unit cost average by 20%, increasing efficiency in order fulfilments and operations. 

The acquisition of in 2016 expanded Walmart’s digital footprint and brought innovative talent into the company. Furthermore, Walmart’s partnerships with various brands (such as Adobe, ShipBob) and retailers enable it to diversify its product offerings, providing a competitive edge against the more specialized approaches of some competitors. As part of Walmart’s strategy in marketing, Walmart has announced partnerships with social media giants such as TikTok, Snapchat, Firework and more further boosting its online digital footprint. 

The acquisition of in 2016 not only expanded Walmart’s digital footprint but it brought innovative talent into the company. It is clear Walmart sees the need for talent as key to its continued efforts to apply human centered design as part of its digital transformation strategy.

By continuously adapting and evolving its strategies, Walmart is clearly implementing digital transformation sustainably, to support its future operating model as Walmart remains a formidable force in the online retail landscape, navigating the challenges presented by its competitors.

In conclusion, Walmart’s business strategy is that of an growing Omnichannel marketplace, a multifaceted approach that combines physical and digital retail, competitive pricing, supply chain excellence, and a commitment to customer satisfaction. Understanding these elements provides insights into the retail giant’s enduring success in a rapid changing and competitive digital economy as it continues to combat emerging new business disruptions.

Q1: How did Walmart become a retail giant?

Walmart’s ascent to retail dominance can be attributed to a combination of strategic pricing, operational efficiency, and a customer-centric approach. 

Q2: What sets Walmart’s supply chain apart?

Walmart’s supply chain is marked by innovation and technological integration, allowing the company to streamline operations and stay ahead in a competitive market.

Q3: How does Walmart balance physical and digital retail?

Walmart seamlessly integrates its brick-and-mortar stores with its online presence, offering customers a comprehensive shopping experience.

Q4: What is Walmart’s philosophy on pricing?

Walmart’s commitment to everyday low prices is a fundamental philosophy that underpins its strategy, ensuring affordability for consumers.

Q5: How has Walmart expanded globally?

Walmart’s global expansion involves adapting its strategy to diverse markets, understanding local dynamics, and leveraging its core strengths.

About the author

Julie Choo is lead author of THE STRATEGY JOURNEY book and the founder of STRATABILITY ACADEMY. She speaks regularly at numerous tech, careers and entrepreneur events globally. Julie continues to consult at large Fortune 500 companies, Global Banks and tech start-ups. As a lover of all things strategic, she is a keen Formula One fan who named her dog, Kimi (after Raikkonnen), and follows football - favourite club changes based on where she calls home.

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How Walmart Became The Retailer Of The People

Table of contents.

In the world of American retail success stories, it’s impossible to ignore the giant that is  Walmart . Just the mention of the name will bring about connotations of scale that are difficult to fathom in our modern context. 

Let's take a look at some of Walmart's astounding numbers

  • $524 Billion (USD) revenue in 2020, an increase of $9.6 Billion 
  • Over 2.3 Million employees worldwide, 1.6 Million in the US alone
  • 4,743 Walmart stores in the US alone
  • 5,184 Walmart international segment stores 
  • Located in 24 countries
  • Global market share of 2.6% in 2021

In this article, we’ll dive deeply into the Walmart story, unpacking the insights that drove them, the circumstances that made them, and pulling as much value as we can from what they’ve been able to accomplish. Whether you’re in retail or not, there are lessons to be learned here about strategic positioning, customer experiences, product development, long-term sustainability, supplier negotiation, and much more. 

Let’s dig in.


The Origin Story

The global behemoth started in a very humble way in Arkansas, back in 1962. Mercurial founder  Sam Walton  had a dream of what a true customer-focused retail experience could be. He believed that you could offer low prices and a great customer experience in parallel. And he set out to prove it.

walmart retailer case study

That first store got off to a roaring success because it did something different from what everyone else provided. Walton’s dedication to leadership through service meant that the store felt like a family-led operation that genuinely cared for those who came through the doors. At this stage, it wasn’t the product range or scale that kept customers coming through the doors; it was the feeling that you actually mattered. You weren’t just a number. You were a valued client whose business was cherished.

Over the next 5 years, Sam Walton and his family expanded this philosophy to open up a further 23 stores, which generated just over $12m in revenue. With each new store they planted, they strived to understand the local community and their needs – delivering the sort of retail experience that they would appreciate. And it was this focus that allowed them to continue growing without losing their spark. Even as they began to scale, the small-town feel remained, and the Walton DNA was sprinkled across every part of the value chain.

In 1969, the company was officially incorporated as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., and just one year later, they were listed as a public company. The vision was to bottle up the magic and take it to a national scale. In a way that had rarely been seen before, the ambition was unbounded. They really did see a future where Walmart stores littered the whole of the USA.

By the time 1980 rolled around, the company crossed the $1bn sales figure, with contributions from 276 stores across the country. In today’s numbers, that’s huge, but back in 1980, it isn’t easy to appreciate just how powerful this empire was. The company had revolutionized modern retail, and on the back of significant improvements in mass production and global supply chains, Walmart continued to accelerate in terms of influence and market share. They were quickly becoming the go-to brand for anything and everything.

Every brand that tried to compete with them struggled to match their low prices, wide variety, and family-friendly ideals that made customers feel at home in the stores. Even though the Waltons couldn’t be everywhere, the culture they had nurtured continued to permeate each location, making it a shopping experience that couldn’t be beaten.

In the ‘90s, the company continued to expand, breezing through $100bn sales in a year and growing its operations into Mexico and other select international locations, most notably  China . Thanks to the Walmart supercenters, the company strengthened its brand as the one-stop shop for absolutely everything, providing great value and low costs across everything sold.

walmart retailer case study

As of the time of writing, Walmart now operates over 10,000 stores globally, employing over 2.3m people and maintaining the status of one of the most recognizable brands across the world. The ethos of Sam Walton created an empire that champions low-priced goods delivered at scale in a way that delights customers through and through.

Now that we have a sense of some of the history, let’s look at some of the strategic pillars that make Walmart the success it is.

The Walmart Cheer

In 1975, Sam Walton traveled to Korea and Japan to visit some of his suppliers and to see what the mass production facilities looked like that were feeding the rapid growth of his organization. One of the visits was to a Korean tennis ball manufacturer, where he came across the idea of what would become the  Walmart Cheer .

The factory was not that inspiring aesthetically, but Walton was taken aback by how enthusiastic and happy the staff was. It was clear that they had something special about them, even in the rather dingy circumstances that they worked in. And when he saw the reason why he knew he had to bring a similar idea to Walmart.

The employees at this factory would get together at the beginning of every day and perform a cheer together. As silly as this sounds, they would do this choreographed war cry of sorts that was designed to unite them and reinforce the values and ideals that they were aiming for that day. On a once-off, this might seem like just a gimmick, but repeated day after day, and it turned into a mantra for that factory that kept the workers going and helped them to feel like they were a part of something larger than themselves.

Walton loved this idea and adapted it into what is known today as the Walmart Cheer. Every day before the staff opens their doors to the public, they will gather together to perform this ritual. The sales numbers for the day before would be read out, as well as any goals that are being set for that particular day, and then the employees will go back and forth spelling out Walmart in the same enthusiastic way that you might have during your high school war cries.

Walton recognized that while this seemed inconsequential to some, a little ritual like this acted as a moment for the staff to come together and set their intentions for each day. It gave the store managers an opportunity to share some words of inspiration or motivation to help fire up the employees. And it got the employees to get into their bodies a bit and set themselves up to be in a good state for what was to come.

By the time that the doors were opened for that day, there was an energy and vitality in that workforce that was contagious. This would help them serve the customers with as much verve as possible, which was what Walmart was all about.

Now, whether this is still done at every store is anyone’s guess, but it points to an important strategic insight that comes from Walmart. They understand that the energy put forth by their retail staff has a significant impact on the overall buying experience. While we tend to place a lot of focus on product ranges, pricing, distribution, marketing, and all those components the truth still remains that people buy from people. The ritual of the Walmart Cheer was a simple piece of what made those employees feel like they were all on the same team. And through the age-old tool of group song and dance, they could set their intentions and build the energy that they would need to give to their customers.

This shows an attention to detail that most retailers don’t get right. We’ve all been in situations where the apathy shown by retail employees creates a sour experience for us as customers, and it leads to us ignoring that brand as a result. Walmart understood this and sought to create practical ways for employees to come together and deliver that exceptional buying experience that the customers were looking for.

Always Low Prices

One of the more common oversimplifications that you’ll hear in the business strategy canon is that your pricing model must fall into one of two camps- high volumes at low prices or low volumes at high prices. While the reality is much more nuanced than that, the choice remains one that all companies must make if they are to create something sustainable.

Walmart has always been focused on low prices. They will do everything they can to slash their prices as low as possible because that is the value that they aim to provide to their customers. They want to beat the competition by convincing their audience that you won’t find these goods for cheaper than anywhere else. All across their supply chain, they are doing everything they can to keep the costs as low as possible.

You can see that most clearly in their margins. For the vast majority of their existence, they’ve kept their net profit margin in the  1-5% range , which is quite staggering when you think about the size and scale that they’ve managed to achieve. This is certainly doing things the hard way when it comes to building a business. Leaving yourself this little operational wiggle room is something that a lot of strategists might advise you against. But Walmart has made it work incredibly well.

The reason that this is so interesting is that in our modern context, the biggest companies in the world have insanely high margins that business experts across the gamut celebrate. The digital businesses that leverage the internet to deliver their offerings can find their margins being in the range of 60% and upwards in most cases, which is in stark contrast to the Walmart model.

But that’s a feature of brick-and-mortar retail. Your overheads and your rent make up a sizable chunk of your cost, and then you add on top of that the complex supply chain that brings a wide variety of products onto your shelves. Before you know it, your margins are under serious pressure and you require a significant investment in infrastructure to get the economies of scale you need.

This is compounded when you consider the types of goods that Walmart sells. The core of the offering is essentials, which are the bread and butter of daily life. Customers only really care about price and convenience in these verticals, so Walmart set itself up to match those desires. Through innovative supply chain optimizations and radical cost-cutting philosophy, they made themselves known as the discount retailer where you get the best prices.

It’s difficult to understate how valuable this branding is. If you can convince your customers that you’ll always have the lowest prices on the market, there’s no reason for them even to consider your competitors. Instead, they trust your product curation and become loyal customers of Walmart. At this point, you transcend the competition, and all you’re working on is delivering a consistently high quality of service to your existing base. This is the core proposition that the entire empire is built on.

That’s not to say that a low-price strategy is easy to execute, of course. There are some serious  minefields  you must navigate when you are trying to compete solely on price. It’s certainly not well suited for every business. But if you can carve out that space in the mind of the customer, you can build a sustainable following that will continue to bring you the volumes you need to make the business work.

Your business promise manifests itself and drowns out the competition.

Decentralized Logistics

To operate at the scale that Walmart does, you rely on a logistics system that must perform incredibly efficiently and reliably in rain or shine to supply stores with the items they need. In fact, you wouldn’t be out of order to suggest that at this point, Walmart is essentially a logistics company. In much the same way that Amazon relies on its distribution center, Walmart relies on always having its products in stock to fulfill the customer promise that they’ve made. And to do this with thousands of stores across the world is not an easy thing to get right.

The key strategic decision that the company made when it comes to its logistics was to decentralize its distribution centers and focus on getting the best possible location for each one. Instead of focusing on how they could achieve economies of scale in each distribution center, by building massive warehouses that would then distribute goods, they wanted more centers that could service the surrounding stores in a reasonable period of time. The objective that they set was that every Walmart store should be able to receive a delivery within 24 hours from a distribution center. This meant that as long as the distribution centers were well stocked, you could rectify stock shortages in any store within a day – helping to ease the pressure that comes with being known as the shop that has everything.

The placement of these distribution centers thus became very important to get right. You weren’t optimizing for low rent, high traffic, good infrastructure, or any of that. You were doing a geographic calculation to identify which stores needed to be serviced and therefore, where should the center be placed. These centers became the nodes of the network that would enable Walmart to spread its wings across the whole of the USA. They potentially could have saved money by optimizing for different criteria, but the specific choice to have a decentralized system meant that they could always ensure that their inventory levels were well managed and controlled.

Another interesting piece of this strategy was that once they had a new distribution center up and running, they would start by building the furthest store away from that center and then move closer and closer towards it, building stores as they went. This meant that the distribution center was prepared, right from the beginning, to handle its most challenging deliveries. Every subsequent store that was built could leverage that early work, and things got easier and easier as a result.

This prioritization also meant that Walmart could be much more selective as to where their actual retail locations were. Using the distribution center as the centerpiece, they could identify the key customer locations that mattered most and set up shop there, creating the spokes of their wheel. It was small details like this that allowed them to ramp up their retail capacity in ways that other chains just couldn’t match.

These logistical decisions have, of course, become part and parcel of our modern conversation because of the shift towards online shopping. Led by the giant that is Amazon, the world of logistics management has radically advanced since Walmart’s early days. But in their time, they really were one of the first companies who were very thoughtful about how they set up their distribution networks and used those pillars as the foundation on which they would expand their empire.

Bargaining Power

walmart retailer case study

It would be impossible to discuss Walmart’s strategy without talking about the incredible level of bargaining power they enjoy over their suppliers. As one of the first retailers that went on an aggressive land grab strategy, they were determined to expand their offering as widely as possible to every town in America. They hoped to bring their consumer promise of low prices to everywhere you could imagine so that the brand became synonymous with saving.

Their success with this rapid expansion meant that they ate up market share in every region that they entered. And after a while, they became the dominant retailer in the country, controlling a significant portion of the goods market. This early domination gave them the leverage that they needed to negotiate the best possible terms with their suppliers.

When Walmart came knocking, suppliers knew that the order sizes were so big that they had to do anything to win that business. Manufacturers around the world would compete to have their goods on Walmart shelves because the scale was just unfathomable. This competition drove prices down and improved payment terms for Walmart itself. They could sit back and let companies eat into their own margins – helping Walmart to provide even lower prices to customers.

This is one of those advantages that gets locked in early and is very difficult to dislodge. If you look back at Walmart’s competitors over the years, this is one of the reasons why they have struggled to make a dent. Walmart’s bargaining power in these negotiations is second to none because a lot of suppliers would reconfigure their entire operation to manage the Walmart order. It was so big in size that it would subsume your manufacturing capacity and while some were able to expand beyond it, a lot of companies were comfortable just servicing the growing Walmart empire.

An example like this shows just how important a first-mover advantage can be in markets like this. When you’re competing on price and convenience, the way that you build scale is by being everywhere. And even though your margins are low in the beginning, if you can capture the market early, you can then put pressure on your suppliers to improve the financial situation over the long term.

You have to have enough cash to wait it out, of course, but this is the same model that we’ve seen from numerous venture-backed companies from the past two decades who chase customer growth first, knowing that once they have the lion’s share of the market, they will have the opportunity to squeeze all the other stakeholders because of the power that you wield. Uber is one modern example that comes to mind here.

And it’s not only on price that you benefit. The improved payment terms that you can negotiate have a significant influence on your cash flow cycle and therefore your ability to scale. Essentially, Walmart created an opportunity for themselves to borrow money for next to nothing which could then subsidize their long-term plans. It’s one of those lesser celebrated pieces of the business that actually has had an outsized impact on their success. And it shows the virtues of a high-volume, low-priced business.

In-House Drivers and Route Optimization

walmart retailer case study

Another part of the Walmart strategy that has paid off for them is the decision to insource their transport across the board. Currently, the company boasts one of the largest truck fleets in the world, and their drivers are some of the highest-skilled drivers in the industry. They made it a priority from very early on to invest in this because they knew that it was crucial to managing a vast landscape of stores. They could have very easily subcontracted this work out to a courier service directly but decided that bringing it in-house would provide synergies that would be valuable.

They spend a lot of time and resources training and upskilling their drivers so that they can maintain the safest possible distribution network in the business. The drivers clock in over 700 million miles every year but still have one of the best safety records on a global scale. This speaks to the attention to detail and care taken to strengthen this part of their business, where a lot of companies might try to cut corners.

Having the best drivers isn’t everything though, you then have to figure out how to utilize them most effectively. Walmart does this expertly through complex route optimization processes that plan out all the travel that these trucks must go through to meet the demands of the various stores.

The main thing that they focus on is minimizing empty miles. Every time a truck is travelling without goods inside it, that opportunity cost is eating into the bottom line. So, everything that the company can do to optimize how they use their available space is going to pay dividends over the long run.

To this end, they employ sophisticated logistics management software that tracks current inventory levels, store purchases, incoming supplies, and truck positioning – to craft routes and distribution schedules that can deliver as efficiently as possible. This technology undergoes a complex weighting of various criteria including fuel consumption, environmental impact, traffic conditions, and more – ensuring that all the transport resources are used to their full potential. This has been tweaked over time and continues to learn from ongoing data that consistently compounds its value.

None of this optimization would be possible though without  the right data behind it , and that’s another area where Walmart has invested a lot of money into. The technological infrastructure that sits behind these thousands of stores is monumental. It allows the distribution nodes to understand the exact situation in real-time for any store they work with. As conditions change or consumer behavior adjusts, they can take that into account and adapt the transportation planning accordingly. 

It’s difficult to appreciate just how transformational this is until you’ve spent some time working on inventory management solutions. This part of business has changed dramatically in the last few years with the Internet of Things, machine learning, and advanced algorithmic decision-making starting to make its mark in the world of logistics. Walmart has shown itself to be a leader in this regard, which continues to push them forward as a company.

Of course, the shift towards online shopping is going to disrupt the typical way they do things, but the principles of logistics remain the same. As Walmart begins to compete on last-mile delivery to the houses of their individual customers, they are going to rely on many of the same technologies to manage inventory, track deliveries, and optimize routes so that they can sweat their assets as efficiently as possible.

The big competitor here is Amazon, who have built a distribution network unlike anything we have ever seen, but Walmart still holds its own because of the infrastructure it has in place. Some are talking about how we may see Walmart converting some stores into further distribution centers for online orders and if so, they would have some of the best-located nodes that anyone could imagine. We’ll have to wait and see.

Walmart is an American institution and through the years it has become a key staple for millions of families across the country. Through thick and thin, Walmart is relied upon to provide the essentials that customers need to survive and thrive. As such, they’ve transcended a mere grocery store and have taken on a certain social responsibility to continue to supply the American people with what they need.

In times of natural disasters that have devastated American towns, we’ve seen Walmart get on the front lines to help supply the recovery efforts and help to rebuild communities that are getting back onto their feet. But the only way they’ve been able to do that is by having their own  disaster recovery strategies  in place – policies that stand out when you compare them to the rest of the industry.

At great cost, Walmart has built six dedicated disaster recovery centers which are well-stocked at all times and ready to serve if something goes wrong in any of their regions. These centers are specifically designed to be a backup and so they hope that they never have to use them, but over the past few decades they have played a very important role in the Walmart story.

Having this redundancy in place as a business allows them to react much quicker to adverse conditions than might be possible otherwise. At the very moment where stores are incapacitated, they can have their distribution center ready to replenish the supplies that are needed in that community. This means that customers can rely on Walmart to get them the goods that they need even in the very worst of times.

Doing this has significant financial implications of course because those centers are just sitting attracting cost without delivering any tangible ROI for the company. Some might say that it’s a waste of resources. But Walmart sees the power in being the retailer that never runs out of stock and is more than happy to pay those costs. Because the branding that comes with it more than pays for those idle distribution centers. Customers can trust that Walmart will look after them in every circumstance, good or bad, and that continues to entrench their competitive advantage in every market they enter.

We can all learn from this – and it’s certainly very topical right now as we deal with a global pandemic. Having redundancy in your organization to prepare for those rainy days helps you to be much more agile than you would have been. And when you consider the branding tailwinds you receive when you are in a position to help people, it makes all that investment worth it.

This is not a corner that you should cut lightly. Redundancy matters.

Acquisitions and Joint Ventures

Let's look at how Walmart approached its international expansion. We can see a very clear strategic preference for acquiring existing retail chains or partnering with existing brands instead of trying to build their own from scratch. This principle is at the heart of their entries into Mexico, China, India, South Africa, and everywhere else where they have a presence. And it’s worth discussing why they went this route.

Walmart understood that the cultural context of their branding and their product offering is what enabled their success in each local area that they went. Customers trusted the chain with their business because it was delivering exactly what they wanted at the best price possible.

The organization knew that if they were to go into a new territory where they had limited cultural understanding, they risked creating a retail experience that didn’t serve those people in the way that it should. And that was an expensive mistake to make if you were entering a new company for the first time.

Instead, if they could leverage the knowledge and experience of local brands who understood the market, they could fast-track all of those learnings and get up to speed in next to no time – because they were standing on the shoulders of giants. So, that’s what they did. They would go into these new markets and look for acquisition targets that made sense for the growing empire.

They were looking for great locations, high customer foot traffic, and a certain penchant for discount shopping. Not only that, they were also looking for operations that weren’t operating as smoothly as they could be. That’s where the Walmart machine could add value.

When the company found a target like this, they could offer a premium price to acquire those brands because they had the confidence in their own technology, systems, and global supply networks that they could drastically improve the efficiency of those stores and drive prices even further down as a result. Riding on the success of the American stores, they could afford to take their time reconfiguring the internal operations and turning those brands into the sophisticated operations that were in place back home.

This is not to say that every acquisition worked,  far from it . International expansion is notoriously difficult. But the key insight is that they realized that they didn’t need to reinvent the wheel. The existing brands had loyal customers, good locations, and a cultural understanding of what was required to serve that particular area. If Walmart could bring its technology and operational excellence to the table, it could turn the dial up on success and grow internationally in a much more streamlined way.

The lore of internal expansion is littered with stories about high-powered brands walking into new countries and expecting to just build exactly the same business in the new place. Walmart wasn’t that naïve. They knew that they had to be smarter than that. And you should be too.

That brings us to the end of this strategy breakdown for Walmart, one of America’s biggest retail success stories. It’s rare that you see a company carry forward the ethos and values of its founder as it scales to this size, but that’s exactly what Walmart has done. Even though it is now a giant commercial conglomerate, it hasn’t lost that special sauce that the Waltons imbued in the company DNA.

It hasn’t tried to become what it’s not. The company has stayed true to its original brand promise that it will give you the widest range of goods at the best prices, wherever you happen to be. We’ve pulled out some key strategic pieces in this study, and those are certainly important in how they’ve got to where they are, but the purity of the offering is what really stands out.

Behind the simplicity of the brand image, lies a sophisticated logistics network, cutting-edge real-time data analysis, thoughtful HR strategy, planned redundancy, strong supplier negotiation, and a land grab strategy rivaled only by perhaps McDonald’s. These components all come together to make Walmart what it is and the scale they’ve achieved is testament to making this a winning formula.

What lies in the future for the company remains to be seen. They face stiff competition from Amazon and a myriad of other online retailers who are stealing customers from right under their noses. But we wouldn’t want to doubt their ability to adjust just yet. They’ve shown time and time again that they can remain relevant, and it’s hard to see them giving that up now.

It’s a story of diligence, perseverance, and a customer focus that bordered on obsession. And when we look back at some of the greatest retailers the world has ever seen, you can bet that Walmart is going to be very near the top of that list.

Sam Walton, we salute you.

Contemporary Strategy Analysis, 10th Edition by Robert M. Grant

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Case 6 Walmart, Inc. in 2018: The World's Biggest Retailer Faces New Challenges *

In 2018, Walmart was not only the world's biggest retailer, it was also the world's biggest company in terms of revenue—a position it had first attained in 2000 and had held for most of the intervening years.

Since going public in 1972, Walmart's record of growth and profitability was remarkable. Between 1972 and 2009, its average annual sales growth was 22% and its return on equity had not fallen below 20%.

Yet, sustaining Walmart's phenomenal record of growth and profitability was proving to be an ever more daunting challenge. As Walmart continued to expand its range of goods and services—into groceries, fashion clothing, music downloads, online prescription drugs, financial services, and health clinics—it was forced to compete on a broader front. While Walmart could seldom be beaten on price, it faced competitors that were more stylish (T.J.Maxx), more quality‐focused (Whole Foods), more service‐oriented (Lowe's, Best Buy), and more focused in terms of product range. In its traditional area of discount retailing, Target was an increasingly formidable competitor, while in warehouse clubs, its Sam's Clubs ran a poor second to Costco.

However, all these competitive threats were trivial compared to that posed by online retailing—and, specifically that posed by the world's emerging retail colossus: Amazon. During 2017, the turf battle between the two became increasingly acute: while Walmart expanded ...

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walmart retailer case study

walmart retailer case study

Künstliche Intelligenz in Unternehmen: Innovative Anwendungen in 50 erfolgreichen Firmen

Der Bestsellerautor und Geschäfts renommierter KI-Experte Bernard zeigt, wie sterben Technologie des maschinellen Lernens das von Unternehmen verändert. Das Buch bietet einen Überblick über einzelne Unternehmen, beschreibt das spezifische Problem und erklärt, wie KI die Lösung erleichtert. Jede Fallstudie bietet einen umfassenden Einblick, der einige technische Details wichtige Lernzusammenfassungen enthält. Marrs Buch ist eine aufschlussreiche und informative Untersuchung der transformativen Kraft der Technologie in der Wirtschaft des 21. Jahrhunderts.

walmart retailer case study

Bernard Marr

Bernard Marr is a world-renowned futurist, influencer and thought leader in the fields of business and technology, with a passion for using technology for the good of humanity. He is a best-selling author of over 20 books, writes a regular column for Forbes and advises and coaches many of the world’s best-known organisations. He has a combined following of 4 million people across his social media channels and newsletters and was ranked by LinkedIn as one of the top 5 business influencers in the world.

Bernard’s latest books are ‘Future Skills’, ‘The Future Internet’, ‘Business Trends in Practice’ and ‘ Generative AI in Practice ’.

Generative AI Book Launch

Bernard Marr ist ein weltbekannter Futurist, Influencer und Vordenker in den Bereichen Wirtschaft und Technologie mit einer Leidenschaft für den Einsatz von Technologie zum Wohle der Menschheit. Er ist Bestsellerautor von 20 Büchern, schreibt eine regelmäßige Kolumne für Forbes und berät und coacht viele der weltweit bekanntesten Organisationen. Er hat über 2 Millionen Social-Media-Follower, 1 Million Newsletter-Abonnenten und wurde von LinkedIn als einer der Top-5-Business-Influencer der Welt und von Xing als Top Mind 2021 ausgezeichnet.

Bernards neueste Bücher sind ‘Künstliche Intelligenz im Unternehmen: Innovative Anwendungen in 50 Erfolgreichen Unternehmen’

Walmart: Big Data analytics at the world’s biggest retailer

23 July 2021

With over 20,000 stores in 28 countries, Walmart is the largest retailer in the world. So it’s fitting then that the company is in the process of building the world’s largest private cloud, big enough to cope with 2.5 petabytes of data every hour. To make sense of all this information, Walmart has created what it calls its Data Café – a state-of-the-art analytics hub located within its Bentonville, Arkansas headquarters.

walmart retailer case study

Walmart uses Big Data in practice

The Data Café allows huge volumes of internal and external data, including 40 petabytes of recent transactional data, to be rapidly modelled, manipulated and visualised. Speaking to me about the project, senior statistical analyst Naveen Peddamail said, “If you can’t get insights until you’ve analysed your sales for a week or a month, then you’ve lost sales within that time.”

Quick access to insights is therefore vital. For example, Peddamail told me about a grocery team who could not understand why sales had suddenly declined in a particular product category. By drilling into the data, they were quickly able to see that pricing miscalculations had led to the products being listed at a higher price than they should have been.

The system also provides automated alerts, so, when particular metrics fall below a set threshold in any department, the relevant team is alerted so that they can find a fast solution. In one example of this, during Halloween, sales analysts were able to see in real time that, although a particular novelty cookie was very popular in most stores, it wasn’t selling at all in two stores. The alert prompted a quick investigation, which showed that, due to a simple stocking oversight, the cookies hadn’t been put on the shelves. The store was then able to rectify the situation immediately.

The technical details

As well as 200 billion rows of transactional data (representing only the past few weeks!), the Café pulls in information from 200 sources, including meteorological data, economic data, Nielsen data, telecom data, social media data, gas prices, and local events databases. Anything within these vast and varied datasets could hold the key to the solution to a particular problem, and Walmart’s algorithms are designed to blaze through them in microseconds to come up with real-time solutions.

Ideas and insights you can steal

Clearly, Walmart has huge amounts of data at its fingertips – and the resources to tackle all that data. But what any company can borrow from Walmart’s example is their ability to react to data quickly. After all, there’s little point investing in data capabilities if your internal setup doesn’t allow you to quickly make decisions and changes based on what the data is telling you.

You can read more about how Walmart is using Big Data to drive success in  Big Data in Practice: How 45 Successful Companies Used Big Data Analytics to Deliver Extraordinary Results .

Business Trends In Practice | Bernard Marr

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Bernard Marr is a world-renowned futurist, influencer and thought leader in the fields of business and technology, with a passion for using technology for the good of humanity.

He is a best-selling author of over 20 books, writes a regular column for Forbes and advises and coaches many of the world’s best-known organisations.

He has a combined following of 4 million people across his social media channels and newsletters and was ranked by LinkedIn as one of the top 5 business influencers in the world.

Bernard’s latest book is ‘ Generative AI in Practice ’.

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Walmart SWOT Analysis & Recommendations

Walmart SWOT analysis, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, external internal factors, forces, e-commerce business case study

This SWOT analysis of Walmart Inc. presents the company’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as the business opportunities and threats relevant to the condition of the retail industry. As a leading retailer, the company has competitive advantages linked to its market position and organizational size. However, to fulfill Walmart’s mission statement and vision statement in the long term, the business needs to match its strategic decisions to the issues arising from the SWOT factors. For instance, the company must account for opportunities and threats that represent external forces in the retail market. Walmart optimizes its operations based on a variety of internal and external factors, including the ones examined in this SWOT analysis.

This SWOT analysis includes an internal analysis of Walmart’s strengths and weaknesses (internal strategic factors) and an external analysis of business opportunities and threats (external strategic factors). These strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats provide a picture of the strategic planning options available to the retail corporation. The SWOT variables enumerated below affect the company, as well as its customers, business partners, suppliers, and competitors in the retail industry.

Strengths (Internal Strategic Factors)

Walmart’s strengths are business characteristics that enable growth, expansion, and profitability. In this part of the SWOT analysis, such characteristics strengthen the business against external forces, such as the threat of competition. The following internal factors are Walmart’s strengths:

  • Dominant brick-and-mortar retail presence
  • High-efficiency logistics and global supply chain
  • Strong bargaining power against suppliers and manufacturers

Walmart’s industry position comes with a dominant brick-and-mortar retail presence, which is a business strength in this SWOT analysis. This strength enables the company to maintain a stable market share, despite aggressive competitors, like Amazon and Target. The large brick-and-mortar presence, along with the operations of the subsidiary, Sam’s Club, helps protect Walmart from competition, which includes Amazon’s relatively small brick-and-mortar operations. In addition, the high-efficiency logistics and global supply chain are a strength that this SWOT analysis links to the retail company’s growth potential. This internal strategic factor facilitates the ability to offer low prices, in support of Walmart’s generic competitive strategy and intensive growth strategies . This SWOT analysis also points to the retail company’s bargaining power as a strength for influencing suppliers and manufacturers. Based on the company’s large organizational size, this internal factor strengthens the business in imposing low prices on goods sold at its stores. This pricing strategy affects suppliers and manufacturers, while ensuring low selling prices at the company’s stores and e-commerce website. To support high efficiencies and large-scale operations, Walmart’s operations management involves advanced business information systems and related technologies. These technological applications help minimize costs, errors, and delays in retail business processes. Walmart’s inventory management is also a foundation that supports the strengths mentioned in this part of the SWOT analysis.

Walmart’s Weaknesses (Internal Strategic Factors)

Walmart’s weaknesses impose challenges in withstanding external forces, such as the threats identified in this SWOT analysis. Business weaknesses are internal factors related to the retail company’s ability for further business development, additional competencies, and higher profits. The following are Walmart’s weaknesses:

  • Limited e-commerce operations
  • Absent or insignificant operations in international shipping
  • Competitive disadvantage relative to specialty sellers’ product quality

Despite its efforts to grow in the online retail space, Walmart’s e-commerce operations are small compared to Amazon’s. In this SWOT analysis, such a limitation is an internal strategic factor that weakens Walmart’s ability to capture a larger share of the retail market. Also, absent or insignificant operations in international shipping constrain potential growth based on international purchases. This weakness is in contrast to Amazon’s integrated international shipping options. Considering such a weakness, this SWOT analysis accounts for the trend of growing international online sales in more markets and market segments worldwide, among other trends described in the PESTEL/PESTLE analysis of Walmart Inc . Furthermore, because of its emphasis on low costs and low prices, the company is at a competitive disadvantage relative to specialty retailers’ product quality. Specialty retailers offer differentiated goods and services, such as high-quality customer service and high-end groceries. This competitive disadvantage is a weakness in this SWOT analysis of Walmart because it reduces the business ability to attract customers who prefer high-end shopping experiences.

Opportunities for Walmart (External Strategic Factors)

Walmart’s opportunities are options for growing the business, based on external forces or conditions in the retail industry environment. This part of the SWOT analysis shows the external factors that the company can pursue to improve its business performance, especially in e-commerce and international operations. The following are Walmart’s opportunities:

  • Global expansion of e-commerce operations
  • Establishment of international shipping
  • Expansion of brick-and-mortar operations to more countries

The opportunity for global e-commerce expansion addresses the weakness of Walmart’s limited e-commerce operations. As mentioned earlier in this SWOT analysis, such a weakness limits the company’s share of the retail market. Thus, global e-commerce operations can boost the company’s international market share. In relation, the company can establish international shipping operations that support global e-commerce. In this SWOT analysis of Walmart, international shipping is an opportunity for the company’s multinational success. Moreover, considering its primary dependence on sales in the United States, the company has opportunities for establishing brick-and-mortar stores in more countries in order to increase profits. Walmart’s marketing mix or 4Ps can support marketing campaigns to exploit these opportunities. For instance, promotional tactics can facilitate the success of new stores in new markets. Also, appropriate modifications to Walmart’s organizational structure or corporate structure , such as new managerial teams for new business processes, can facilitate multinational operations to grow the company based on the opportunities shown in this part of the SWOT analysis.

Threats (External Strategic Factors)

The threats to Walmart’s business are linked to the retail market condition, human resource availability, and international relations. This part of the SWOT analysis shows how external forces in the industry environment can hamper the retail company’s improvement. The following external factors are threats to Walmart:

  • Competitive threat from online and brick-and-mortar firms
  • Supply chain disruptions due to political, economic, and health factors
  • Labor market disruptions

Competition presents a major threat in the retail industry, as shown in the Five Forces analysis of Walmart Inc . For example, the company competes against Amazon ’s brick-and-mortar stores, marketplace, and e-commerce services; and eBay’s marketplace. Also, Walmart experiences competitive pressure from Target, Home Depot , Costco , and Best Buy, as well as Kroger, Lowe’s, Rakuten, and 7-Eleven. In this SWOT analysis, such a diversity of competitors creates a strong external force in the retail industry.

On the other hand, supply chain disruptions also threaten Walmart’s business. These disruptions are external strategic factors connected to the political and economic aspects of international relations, as well as health concerns, such as pandemics. In this SWOT analysis, these disruptions are a threat to the stability of supply chains and, consequently, the stability of Walmart’s operations, which depend on importing low-cost goods.

Labor market disruptions are linked to social trends that affect the availability and willingness of people to work for companies, like Walmart. This external factor is a threat that affects the retail company’s human resources. In this SWOT analysis, such labor market issues directly relate to the company’s capacity to provide its online and brick-and-mortar services to customers. This external strategic factor emphasizes the importance of Walmart’s human resource management in maintaining an adequate workforce to support business operations. Also, Walmart’s organizational culture or corporate culture  can provide support for maintaining an attractive workplace, in order to minimize turnover. Support from the organizational culture can improve job satisfaction and, in turn, stabilize the company’s human resources. Furthermore, Walmart’s corporate social responsibility strategy is significant in this part of the SWOT analysis. Corporate citizenship and stakeholder management efforts can enhance the company’s corporate image and workers’ perception about the business.

Recommendations based on this SWOT Analysis of Walmart Inc.

This SWOT analysis shows that Walmart has the business strengths to support growth through e-commerce expansion and international operations, which are opportunities in the global retail industry. However, this SWOT analysis also shows that the company needs to implement new strategies to overcome its weaknesses, such as the limited international presence; and the threats to its retail business, like competition and supply chain disruptions. Based on these internal and external strategic factors, an applicable recommendation is for growing Walmart’s e-commerce operations. It is also recommended that the company establish more locations outside its current retail markets. Ultimately, the goal should be to make Walmart a leading retail and e-commerce company that provides its goods and services globally.

  • Benzaghta, M. A., Elwalda, A., Mousa, M. M., Erkan, I., & Rahman, M. (2021). SWOT analysis applications: An integrative literature review. Journal of Global Business Insights, 6 (1), 55-73.
  • Ismail, R. E., & Jokonya, O. (2023). Factors affecting the adoption of emerging technologies in last-mile delivery in the retail industry. Procedia Computer Science, 219 , 2084-2092.
  • Risberg, A. (2023). A systematic literature review on e-commerce logistics: Towards an e-commerce and omni-channel decision framework. The International Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research, 33 (1), 67-91.
  • Taherdoost, H., & Madanchian, M. (2021). Determination of business strategies using SWOT analysis; Planning and managing the organizational resources to enhance growth and profitability. Macro Management & Public Policies, 3 (1), 19-22.
  • U.S. Department of Commerce – International Trade Administration – Retail Trade Industry .
  • Walmart Inc. – America at Work .
  • Walmart Inc. – Form 10-K .
  • Walmart Inc. – Opportunity .
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  • This article may not be reproduced, distributed, or mirrored without written permission from Panmore Institute and its author/s.
  • Educators, Researchers, and Students: You are permitted to quote or paraphrase parts of this article (not the entire article) for educational or research purposes, as long as the article is properly cited and referenced together with its URL/link.

Walmart's Workforce of the Future

Any discussion of the future of retail—or how we work—has to include Walmart. As of 2017, 90 percent of the US population lived within 10 miles of a Walmart store; with 11,766 locations worldwide and $514 billion in annual revenues, the discount store also has the distinction of being the largest private employer in the United States, with 1.5 million workers (2.2 million worldwide).

But that size and dominance doesn’t make Walmart immune to pressures faced by any other retail operation. In the second-year Harvard Business School course Managing the Future of Work , Professor William Kerr explores how technology and demographics are changing the way companies like Walmart, and their workers, operate.

“The pace of change in the retail sector is truly extraordinary,” says Kerr, the D’Arbeloff Professor of Business Administration and co-director of Harvard’s Managing the Future of Work initiative . “That requires a lot of reskilling of employees and hard choices, in an uncertain environment, in terms of how to deploy capital.”

“This digital transformation creates new jobs, but, more important, it changes the nature of jobs, even entry-level ones.”

Kerr captures that dilemma by detailing the scope of Walmart’s operations and current strategies in the case “Walmart’s Workforce of the Future.” Published in April, it offers an overview of the considerable investments the retail giant is making in its e-commerce infrastructure, in its employee training and support, and in technological innovations such as robot workers and in-house incubators.

Walmart fights a revenue drop

The case details how the rise of ecommerce (and the success of Amazon in particular) affected Walmart’s discount stores (which sell general merchandise but limited grocery items), resulting in a decrease in annual revenue at those stores from $142.5 billion in 2009 to 97.7 billion in 2018. During the same time period, revenue at Walmart’s “supercenters” (larger stores that also sell groceries and often include services such as eye care, beauty salons, and photo studios) increased by 16 percent, from $409.9 billion to $476.2 billion. (Walmart closed 2,214 discount stores or converted them into other formats from 1993 to 2018, with 2,576 supercenters opening during that time.)

In addition to increasing Walmart’s supercenter footprint, CEO Doug McMillon’s omnichannel strategy focuses on a seamless approach to the customer experience, with an emphasis on employee training and improved ecommerce and automation technology, both on the floor and in back office roles.

One foundational move to beef up its technology was Walmart’s $3.3 billion acquisition of online retailer in 2016, an investment that immediately improved its ecommerce infrastructure. Walmart has also piloted and invested in robots to perform a variety of functions, from unloading trucks to scrubbing floors to scanning shelves and bringing items out of storage for curbside delivery orders. But public statements by senior executives made it clear that Walmart was equally committed to the complex, costly effort required to train its human workers.

“I want to be clear that we don’t believe technology is the answer to everything,” McMillon stated in a 2017 annual shareholder meeting. “The secret to success will always be our people. … It will be our humanity that drives our creativity, powers our competitive spirit, and keeps us out in front.”

Technology changes the nature of work

But at the same meeting, McMillon also acknowledged how technology changes the nature of work itself, a perspective echoed by Walmart Chief Sustainability Officer and Walmart Foundation President Kathleen McLaughlin. “…we’re now a tech company as much as a retail company,” Mc Laughlin said. “This digital transformation creates new jobs, but, more important, it changes the nature of jobs, even entry-level ones.”

Those demands require more of workers—and an equivalent commitment to re-skilling and compensation. In the case, Kerr cites Walmart’s investments in wages and training for employees of $1.2 billion and $1.5 billion in 2015 and 2016—part of a move that boosted starting pay for frontline associates from $9 per hour in 2015 to $10 in 2016 (it hit $11 per hour in early 2018). Yet in 2015, announcement of a wage increase resulted in a share price drop the following day of 10 percent, on news that the increase would cut earnings per share by 6 to 12 percent in 2016. It’s a dynamic that lays bare for MBA students the consequences of senior leadership’s choices, says Kerr.

“It’s easy to be critical and say that Walmart should be doing more, but when students review the company’s actions over the past five years, they have to confront the fact that every time the minimum wage went up, the stock price went down—and meanwhile, competitors have better margins.”

The case also outlines Walmart’s approach to training its workers, including its focus on building long-term, transferable skills through efforts such as Pathways, a program that teaches associates about the retail business model, explains the “why” behind the work they’re asked to do, and helps develop the soft skills that are useful in any field. Workers who completed the program received a raise and had increased job opportunities; however, many complained that it lacked clarity and that it took too long to move through the various modules. While Walmart planned for 500,000 employees to go through Pathways in 2016, the initial rollout was considerably lower; as a result, Walmart needed to revamp some parts of the program to speed up its completion rate. (Its Academies program, focused on training and empowering hourly supervisors to directly manage team members, faced similar challenges.)

In another move to build a more skilled, educated workforce, Walmart introduced a program in 2018 that offered workers the opportunity to enroll in online degree programs for $1 a day in business, technology, and supply chain management at three different universities; in June 2019, the program expanded to six universities and 14 areas of study, including cybersecurity and computer science. Widely hailed in the press for the opportunity it offers workers to graduate from college debt-free, the program has seen 7,500 employee enrollments in its first year.

“There’s so much to unpack in the choices that Walmart is making,” Kerr says, remarking that management has also introduced virtual reality goggles to train employees as well as an app, Spark City, that uses a game-type simulation to teach workers about store processes and customer service. Walmart has even crossed over with the gig economy by partnering with platforms including DoorDash, Postmates, Uber, and Lyft for package and grocery delivery.

‘You’re the CEO of Walmart’

So, is Walmart making the right investments for its future? “We spend a lot of time in conversation in this class,” says Kerr. “I’ll say, ‘You’re the CEO of Walmart. What would you have done differently? In 2030, what will your workforce look like? How much of your sales will be in-store, and how much online?

“An early indication of the uncertainty of the future is that, with a bunch of smart MBAs, we had a wide, wide range of opinions as to what the future looks like. From some putting all their chips on ecommerce to others who see Walmart as having a powerful position, particularly in more rural areas, where it can be the one place you go to get your prescriptions, do your shopping, and pick up your ecommerce packages—so building on that, rather than trying to become Amazon.”

Analysts generally give Walmart strong marks for how its investments in technology and training have set it up to compete.

“The progress that they’ve made and the strength they still possess has been working out for them to a good degree,” says Kerr. But it’s too soon to tell whether they have established themselves in a way that will allow them to truly excel. “That’s where the jury is still out. They are still defining the Walmart of the future.”

About the Author

Julia Hanna is an associate editor of the HBS Alumni Bulletin [Image: artran]

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walmart retailer case study

Walmart Supply Chain: Building a Successful Integrated Supply Chain for Sustainable Competitive Advantage

  • Case Studies


The global business landscape has witnessed an increasingly fierce competition, pushing companies to seek effective strategies to maintain and enhance their competitiveness. Among these strategies, the role of supply chain capability stands out as a key factor in driving success. A well-optimized supply chain not only ensures efficient delivery and cost-effectiveness but also provides companies with a competitive advantage in the market. In this context, Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, has demonstrated a highly successful and integrated Walmart supply chain, propelling its growth and dominance in the retail industry.

This case study aims to delve into the significance of supply chain capability for enhancing a company’s competitiveness and how it serves as a competitive advantage for companies. Additionally, we will explore the imperative need for supply chain redesign in the global economy to adapt to the challenges of the modern era of globalization. Focusing on Walmart’s exemplary supply chain practices, the purpose of this case study is to analyze the features of its successful integrated supply chain while identifying relevant issues in the context of the current globalized market.

[Read More: Rivian: Navigating Supply Chain and Operational Challenges and Embracing Growth ]

Walmart’s Supply Chain: Integrated Supply Chain Success

Data-driven success factors.

In the realm of modern supply chain management, data-driven strategies play a pivotal role in enhancing a company’s competitiveness. Walmart’s remarkable success as the world’s largest retailer can be attributed to its astute utilization of data analysis and advanced technologies within its integrated supply chain. This section delves into the key data-driven success factors that have propelled Walmart’s supply chain to the forefront of the retail industry.

[Read More: ERP Master Data: A Guide to Improve Quality & Governance ]

Role of Data Analysis through Barcode Scanning and Point-of-Sale Systems

Data analysis is at the core of Walmart’s supply chain prowess. The company has implemented sophisticated barcode scanning and point-of-sale systems to collect real-time data from its stores. By employing these technologies, Walmart gains valuable insights into customer buying behavior, sales trends, and inventory levels. The ability to analyze this data enables the retail giant to make informed decisions on product procurement, inventory management, and demand forecasting.

Efficient Supply Chain Practices: Automated Distribution Centers and Computerized Inventory Systems

Automation is a key component of Walmart’s efficient supply chain practices. The company has strategically invested in automated distribution centers, streamlining the flow of products from manufacturers to stores. These automated facilities not only optimize the handling and movement of goods but also enable faster order fulfillment and replenishment. Additionally, computerized inventory systems provide Walmart with accurate and up-to-date information about stock levels, allowing for precise inventory control and reducing the risk of stockouts or excess inventory.

walmart retailer case study

Utilizing Walmart’s Own Trucking System and Cross-Docking Logistics

Another critical factor contributing to Walmart’s supply chain success is the utilization of its private trucking system and cross-docking logistics. By maintaining its own trucking fleet, Walmart gains greater control over transportation and delivery schedules, leading to improved efficiency and timely product replenishment. Furthermore, the adoption of cross-docking logistics techniques has enabled Walmart to minimize the need for intermediate storage, leading to reduced handling costs and faster product movement through the supply chain.

[Read More: The Ultimate Guide to Contract Logistics: What You Need to Know ]

Information Technologies Driving Efficiency

In Walmart’s journey towards becoming a global leader, information technologies have played a pivotal role in driving efficiency within the integrated Walmart supply chain. The retail giant has strategically adopted various IT initiatives to optimize its operations, enhance collaboration with suppliers, and achieve real-time inventory targeting. These technologies have contributed significantly to Walmart’s supply chain success, allowing them to maintain a competitive edge in the retail industry.

Supply Chain Digitalization Assessment

Collaborative Planning, Forecasting, and Replenishment (CPFR)

One of the key information technologies that have bolstered Walmart’s supply chain efficiency is the implementation of Collaborative Planning, Forecasting, and Replenishment (CPFR). This system facilitates seamless communication and coordination between Walmart and its supply chain partners, including suppliers and distributors. By sharing real-time sales data and demand information, CPFR enables accurate forecasting and demand planning, minimizing information distortion, and promoting synchronized inventory replenishment. The CPFR program has been instrumental in enhancing overall supply chain visibility and efficiency, allowing Walmart to respond promptly to fluctuations in demand and supply, reducing stockouts, and optimizing inventory levels.

Vendor-Managed Inventory (VMI) and Its Benefits

Walmart’s adoption of Vendor-Managed Inventory (VMI) has been another critical information technology-driven initiative. Through VMI, Walmart empowers its suppliers to take on the responsibility of managing their inventory stored in Walmart’s warehouses. By granting suppliers access to real-time inventory data and sales information, Walmart facilitates efficient inventory tracking and replenishment. This hands-on approach by suppliers results in streamlined inventory management, reduced delays in replenishment, and lower stockouts. The VMI model has proved particularly advantageous for Walmart due to its vast product range and numerous suppliers, making inventory management complex and costly if managed solely by the retailer.

[Read More: Vendor Managed Inventory: A Comprehensive Guide ]

Leveraging RFID Technology for Real-Time Inventory Targeting

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology has been a game-changer in Walmart’s pursuit of real-time inventory targeting and enhanced supply chain visibility. By employing RFID tags on products, Walmart can track the movement of inventory throughout the supply chain in real-time. RFID enables accurate and automated inventory tracking, reducing the need for manual counting and minimizing errors in inventory management. The technology also provides crucial details, such as production time, location, and expiry dates of goods, allowing for efficient inventory targeting and better control over inventory turnover. RFID technology has been instrumental in Walmart’s cost reduction efforts, ensuring optimal stock levels while avoiding overstocking and unnecessary inventory holding costs.

Achieving Competitive Advantage through Strategy

Walmart’s competitive strategy: “everyday low prices” (edlp).

Walmart’s competitive advantage is deeply rooted in its strategic focus on offering “Everyday Low Prices” (EDLP) to its customers. The EDLP strategy revolves around providing high-quality products and services at the lowest possible prices, ensuring that customers can benefit from affordable prices every day. This approach sets Walmart apart from its competitors and has been instrumental in establishing the company as a dominant force in the retail industry.

Implementing the “Everyday Low Costs” (EDLC) Policy through Direct Procurement

To support its EDLP strategy, Walmart follows an “Everyday Low Costs” (EDLC) policy in its supply chain management. One of the key elements of the EDLC policy is the direct procurement of items from suppliers, eliminating intermediaries in the process. By procuring directly from manufacturers, Walmart can negotiate and understand their cost structure, enabling them to make informed purchasing decisions and obtain the best prices for their products.

Walmart’s emphasis on direct procurement is further bolstered by the use of technology and information systems. The company has implemented a central database, store-level point-of-sale systems, and a satellite network, along with barcodes and RFID technology as previously mentioned. These technologies allow Walmart to gather and analyze real-time store-level information, including sales data and external factors like weather forecasts, to enhance the accuracy of purchasing predictions. This integration of information technology helps Walmart optimize its procurement process and maintain low costs throughout the supply chain.

Utilizing Information Systems for Better Inventory Management

Effective inventory management is critical for Walmart to sustain its competitive advantage through the EDLP strategy. The company relies on information systems and information technology (IT) capabilities to control inventory levels efficiently. By capturing customers’ demand information, Walmart can identify popular products and stock them adequately, leading to an overall reduction in inventory.

One notable example of Walmart’s successful utilization of information systems is its collaboration with Procter & Gamble (P&G) through the Collaborative Planning, Forecasting, and Replenishment (CPFR) program. This program links all computers of P&G to Walmart’s stores and warehouses, allowing for efficient replenishment orders based on real-time inventory needs. Additionally, Walmart’s Retail Link , developed in the early 1990s, serves as another vital IT application for storing data, sharing it with vendors, and aiding in shipment routing assignments.

walmart retailer case study

Challenges and Opportunities

Supplier cooperation and collaboration.

Walmart’s supply chain success can be attributed to its strong relationships with suppliers, but achieving and maintaining supplier cooperation and collaboration is not without challenges. Let’s explore the challenges and opportunities in this area:

Challenges in Obtaining Suppliers’ Cooperation

  • Supplier Resistance to Direct Procurement: Walmart follows an “Everyday Low Costs” (EDLC) policy by directly procuring items from suppliers, eliminating intermediaries. However, some suppliers may be reluctant to cooperate with this approach as it can disrupt existing distribution channels and potentially reduce their bargaining power.
  • Complex Supplier Networks: With thousands of suppliers across various product categories, managing diverse supplier networks can be challenging. Each supplier may have different production and delivery schedules, making coordination difficult.
  • Balancing Profit Margins: As Walmart emphasizes low prices, maintaining a balance between cost savings and ensuring suppliers’ profitability can be a delicate task. Suppliers may resist pressure to reduce prices further to maintain their margins.

Opportunities for Enhanced Supplier Cooperation and Collaboration

  • Establishing Transparent Communication Channels: Walmart can create transparent and open communication channels with its suppliers to foster better cooperation. Clear communication regarding demand forecasts, inventory levels, and potential disruptions can help suppliers plan their production and deliveries more efficiently.
  • Supplier Incentive Programs: Introducing incentive programs that reward suppliers for meeting certain performance metrics, such as on-time delivery or cost reduction, can motivate suppliers to actively collaborate and improve their supply chain capabilities.
  • Collaborative Planning, Forecasting, and Replenishment (CPFR): Walmart can leverage technology, such as CPFR, to share real-time sales data and demand forecasts with its suppliers. This collaborative approach allows suppliers to align their production and inventory management with actual market demand, reducing the bullwhip effect and optimizing the supply chain.
  • Sharing Inventory Visibility: Providing suppliers with access to inventory data, including stock levels and sales information, can help them plan production and deliveries more effectively. This visibility can prevent stockouts and overstocking issues.
  • Long-term Partnerships: Building long-term strategic partnerships with key suppliers can create a sense of mutual commitment and trust. By assuring consistent business over an extended period, Walmart can foster stronger relationships and supplier loyalty.

[Read More: 3 Types of Supplier Segmentation Matrix You Can Use to Classify Suppliers ]

Importance of Collaboration to Enhance Supply Chain Efficiency

  • Reducing Lead Times: Effective collaboration with suppliers can help shorten lead times by streamlining production and transportation processes. Faster lead times enables Walmart to respond quickly to changes in demand, reducing the risk of stockouts.
  • Efficient Inventory Management: Collaborative efforts with suppliers enable better inventory planning and management. Suppliers can adjust production based on actual demand, reducing excess inventory and associated costs.
  • Supply Chain Flexibility: Collaboration fosters agility and adaptability in the supply chain. When Walmart and its suppliers work together closely, they can quickly adjust to market changes, supply disruptions, or new opportunities.
  • Cost Reduction: Improved supplier collaboration can lead to cost-saving opportunities. By eliminating unnecessary intermediaries and optimizing production and transportation, overall supply chain costs can be minimized.

walmart retailer case study

The Incentives Alignment Issue

In any supply chain, maintaining a balance of profit margins among different parties is essential for efficient collaboration and sustained success. However, achieving incentives alignment can be challenging, and this issue is particularly relevant in the case of Walmart supply chain. Addressing misalignment of interests between Walmart and its suppliers is crucial for optimizing the overall performance of the supply chain and ensuring long-term success. The following points highlight the incentives alignment issue faced by Walmart:

1. Balancing Profit Margins Among Different Supply Chain Parties:

Walmart’s success is attributed to its ability to offer high-quality products and services at the lowest affordable prices. To achieve this, Walmart employs various cost-cutting strategies, such as direct procurement from suppliers and streamlined distribution practices. While these strategies help Walmart maintain competitive prices, they can create challenges for suppliers who may face pressure to lower their own profit margins to meet Walmart’s demands. This misalignment of profit margins can lead to strained relationships and potentially impact the overall efficiency of the supply chain.

2. Misalignment of Interests Between Walmart and Suppliers:

Walmart’s size and market dominance can lead to power imbalances in supplier relationships. Suppliers may feel compelled to comply with Walmart’s demands to maintain access to its large customer base. However, this can lead to situations where suppliers may not have enough leverage to negotiate favorable terms, impacting their own profitability. As a result, suppliers may be less inclined to invest in innovations or improvements that would benefit the supply chain as a whole.

3. Conflict Between Inventory Growth and Sales Growth:

Walmart faced inventory growth issues in the past, with the inventory growth rate outpacing the sales growth rate. This can be indicative of conflicting incentives between Walmart and its suppliers. Suppliers may prioritize producing and delivering more inventory to ensure they meet Walmart’s demands, even if the sales growth does not keep up with the increased inventory. This misalignment can lead to excess inventory, increased carrying costs, and potential stockouts.

4. The Need for a New Triple-A Supply Chain:

Addressing the incentives alignment issue requires a fundamental shift in the supply chain strategy. Lee (2004) proposed the concept of a new Triple-A supply chain for Walmart and other companies in the 21st century. The Triple-A supply chain emphasizes agility, adaptability, and alignment to create a sustainable competitive advantage. Achieving alignment among all participating parties is crucial to optimize supply chain performance and ensure that risks and rewards are distributed fairly.

The Triple-A Supply Chain Approach

In today’s competitive business landscape, companies like Walmart recognize that a successful supply chain is not just about having a fast and cost-effective system. To maintain a sustainable competitive advantage and address the challenges of the global economy, it is essential to redesign supply chains that incorporate agility, adaptability, and alignment. This section explores the concept of the Triple-A Supply Chain Approach, which emphasizes these three key qualities that an ideal supply chain should possess: agility, adaptability, and alignment of interests among all participating parties.

The Three Qualities of an Ideal Supply Chain

Agility for quick and cost-effective responses:.

Agility refers to a supply chain’s ability to respond quickly and cost-effectively to sudden changes in demand, supply, and external disruptions. In the fast-paced business environment, companies must be able to adapt swiftly to fluctuations in customer preferences, market conditions, and unforeseen events. For Walmart, agility has been a critical factor in maintaining its leadership position in the retail industry. The company’s investments in technology and supply chain optimization strategies have allowed them to optimize inventory levels and respond rapidly to changing customer demands, ensuring the availability of products while minimizing inventory costs.

Adaptability to Handle Changes in Demand and Supply:

Supply chains should be adaptable and flexible enough to handle variations in demand and supply patterns. Demand forecasts can be uncertain, and unexpected supply chain disruptions may occur, making adaptability a vital quality. Walmart’s focus on omnichannel and various fulfillment options, such as in-store pickup and ship from store, demonstrates their commitment to adaptability. By utilizing multiple channels, Walmart can cater to diverse customer preferences, ensuring an uninterrupted flow of products to meet demand.

Alignment of Interests among All Participating Parties:

One of the significant challenges in supply chain management is ensuring alignment of interests among all parties involved, including suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers. Walmart’s scale and dominance in the retail market have allowed them to establish strong relationships with vendors, enabling strategic partnerships with vendors who can meet their high-volume demands. Additionally, Walmart’s adoption of Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI) allows suppliers to manage their own inventory stored in Walmart’s warehouses. This collaboration aligns the incentives of suppliers and Walmart, streamlining inventory management and ensuring timely replenishment.

walmart retailer case study

In conclusion, Walmart’s integrated supply chain has been a crucial factor in the company’s global dominance and sustained competitive advantage. By strategically investing in technology and optimizing its supply chain, Walmart has managed to maintain its position as the world’s largest retailer with over $572 billion in revenue in 2022.

Walmart’s success serves as a compelling example of the importance of a well-integrated supply chain in achieving and sustaining competitive advantage in the global market. As businesses continue to navigate the complexities of the 21st-century economy, building and enhancing supply chain capabilities will remain a critical aspect of ensuring sustainable growth and profitability. By prioritizing agility, adaptability, and alignment, companies can follow in Walmart’s footsteps and position themselves for continued success in the dynamic and ever-evolving global marketplace.


  • Lee H.L. (2004): The triple A supply chain. “Harvard Business Review”, Vol. 82, No. 10, pp. 102-112. 
  • Nguyen T.T.H. (2017): Wal-Mart’s successfully integrated supply chain and the necessity of establishing the Triple-A supply chain in the 21st century. “Journal of Economics and Management”, Vol. 29(3), pp. 102-117

About the Author –  Dr Muddassir Ahmed

Dr MuddassirAhmed  is the Founder & CEO of SCMDOJO. He is a  global speaker ,  vlogger  and  supply chain industry expert  with 17 years of experience in the Manufacturing Industry in the UK, Europe, the Middle East and South East Asia in various Supply Chain leadership roles.   Dr. Muddassir   has received a PhD in Management Science from Lancaster University Management School. Muddassir is a Six Sigma black belt and founded the leading supply chain platform SCMDOJO to enable supply chain professionals and teams to thrive by providing best-in-class knowledge content, tools and access to experts.

You can follow him on  LinkedIn ,  Facebook ,  Twitter  or  Instagram .

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walmart retailer case study

Digital Transformation at Walmart: A case study.

Walmart (NYSE: WMT), the largest physical retailer based in the United States, has achieved enormous growth over the years through its EDLP pricing strategy and a customer-friendly brand image. In recent years, the company has focused on digitalization to grow sales and improve customer service. Its e-commerce sales have continued to strengthen worldwide.

Physical retailers in the US are turning to digitalization to serve their customers better, whose lifestyles are now heavily influenced by digital technology. Walmart acquired the Indian online retail brand Flipkart in 2018. Since then, it has also made a significant investment in its US e-commerce infrastructure.

While investing in technology is essential for retailers to serve their customers more efficiently, Amazon’s growing influence in the retail industry has also proved to be a key driver of digitalization across the US-based retail brands. The need to focus on digital technology was never more highlighted than during the pandemic. Customer behavior changed profoundly with the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic . Customers mostly switched to online shopping during lockdowns. These changes will last longer since the impact on people’s lifestyle has been profound. 

Walmart has been investing in e-commerce over the past several years and is reaping its benefits now. However, Walmart’s focus is not just on e-commerce but on a complete digital transformation that drives superior associate performance while driving higher customer satisfaction also apart from stronger financial returns. Cloud technology is driving similar transformations across other retailers too. Walmart is leveraging cloud technology to strengthen its competitive position and accelerate its growth momentum.

Back in 2018, Walmart partnered with Microsoft to accelerate its cloud journey and more expeditiously deliver on changing customer expectations. Walmart’s digital transformation has also come in the face of growing competitive pressure from the e-commerce giant Amazon. From its online store to supply chain and logistics, digital technology, AI, IoT, and Machine Learning are driving rapid changes. Walmart’s continuous growth in the future depends on its ability to leverage technology to swiftly respond to the changing market scenario and customers’ purchasing habits.

Table of Contents

Factors that drove rapid digitalization at Walmart.

Walmart is the largest physical retailer in the United States. The company has been enjoying enormous growth over the last several years. However, the retail landscape in the United States is changing swiftly.  Five main factors drove digitalization at Walmart: 

  • Demographic changes in the US population.
  • Changing consumer habits and expectations.
  • Rise of mobile computing.
  • Need for more speed and efficiency.
  • Growing challenge from Amazon

Demographic changes and other changes like the rise of e-commerce has also changed how people shopped. Since the retail landscape is changing, Walmart’s traditional operating model was insufficient to serve the customers’ evolving needs in the US. Millennials are now the largest segment of the US adult population (Pew Research, 2020). 

They are also the most important customer segment for retail brands like Walmart. The expectations of the millennial generation are very different from the  Baby Boomers. The millennials are tech savvier and live highly digital lives. They like to shop online for a large range of products and services. Apart from their general needs, these people also depend on online channels for their daily entertainment and various other needs like music and fashion.

The rise of social media and the millennials’ consumption habits all required the businesses that wanted to serve them to adopt a better model driven by technology. Walmart’s competitive moat lay in its pricing strategy mainly apart from the large array of products it sells. However, these things are no longer sufficient to cater to the millennial generation’s expectations fully. Walmart needed to transition to a better model that could handle things with higher speed and efficiency.

 Both these things are important for maximizing customer satisfaction in an era driven by computers, the internet, data and analytics. The dependence of retail brands on technology was also destined to grow because of the growing use of mobile computing. The need for higher mobility also drove higher investment into technology. Digital technology has altered the buying habits of the customers, who like to compare prices on their smartphones before they go for the final purchase.

Lower prices attract the millennials but there are more factors they consider before making a purchase. Customer convenience matters more than ever to win in a highly competitive retail landscape. It affects demand and sales. However, to grow the level of customer convenience requires a focus on digital technology which saves time and also helps reduce costs.

Another important factor that drove Walmart towards rapid digitalization was the rise of the e-commerce giant Amazon. Prior to that, Walmart was the undisputed leader in the US retail sector. Amazon is right next to Walmart on the Fortune 500 list, where the physical retail giant has managed to remain at the top for several years. In 2020, Walmart is on the top of the list for the eighth time (Fortune, 2020).

In terms of e-commerce sales in the US, Walmart is just next to Amazon (despite the substantial gap). There is still a substantial difference in the market shares of the two in the e-commerce industry but Walmart is trying to strengthen its position through continuous investment in digital technology. Amazon poses a major challenge before the other  US-based retailers whose continuous growth now depends on how well they can serve their tech-savvy consumers.

The drive towards a highly digital future has accelerated with the pandemic. People’s buying habits are being reshaped, and consumers will likely depend more on online shopping in the future. Walmart needed to take Amazon’s challenge since, over time, Walmart’s influence could substantially reduce due to the growth in Amazon’s, which is aggressively demanding lower prices from its sellers using its clout in e-commerce. Leveraging its existing competitive strengths for superior results was only possible if Walmart invested in digitalization.

Supply chain digitalization at Walmart

Walmart has focused on higher digitalization in nearly all areas of its business system. From the supply chain to sales, customer service, marketing, and store operations, the company has steadily been investing in digitalization to grow its operational efficiency and cost-efficiency. Walmart’s supply chain digitalization was an important pillar of its omnichannel strategy.

Digitalizing the supply chain was the first important step towards making its omnichannel strategy a success. To really gain from its investment in technology and digitalization, Walmart first needed to leverage the strength of its supply chain. A highly optimized supply chain is a critical source of competitive advantage for the retail brand. It has helped Walmart maintain consistently lower prices and could be further optimized using digital tools to gain higher cost-efficiency and derive better employee performance. 

Moreover, the traditional supply chain management model was insufficient to serve the evolving needs of US customers. Digitalizing the supply chain has enabled the retail giant to pursue its omnichannel strategy with a higher success rate. Walmart is leveraging digital technology to share information across the supply chain, and for tracking and managing inventory across its stores and warehouses in the United States.

An efficient and modernized supply chain has played a critical role in helping the company gain higher cost-efficiency. Walmart’s competitive position as the leading physical retailer in the US has strengthened with growing digitalization across its supply chain, which also helped it access a large pool of data. It gains valuable insights from the data to understand consumer behavior. Walmart’s large supply chain produces tons of data daily used to make important inventory management decisions. It also helped the company grow its supply chain resilience to serve customer needs better during a crisis like a hurricane or in the event of a pandemic like Coronavirus.

Walmart also secured its supply chain against fast-changing market conditions by leveraging data and analytics. In 2017, it invested in Data Cafe, one of the largest private clouds in the world to grow its data and analytics capabilities and process more than 40 Petabytes of data being generated from internal and external sources daily (Marr, 2017). Walmart’s data cafe is its analytics hub located at its headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. Data Cafe allows Walmart to model, manipulate, and visualize recent transactional data, it collects from more than 200 internal and external streams.

It enabled faster decision making at Walmart and provided solutions to several critical supply chain management related problems that could otherwise take a lot longer to answer. Walmart made Data Cafe available to its suppliers so they could gain free insights into customer demand and manage their supply and inventory better. 

In 2018, Walmart introduced its Connected Content Provider Program, whose main focus was to help suppliers scale content to Walmart’s catalog and other retailers (Ogura, 2018). The program aimed to bring harmony between retailers, suppliers, and content. With its syndication partners like Salsify, the company aimed to help its suppliers deliver content with higher speed and agility. Suppose a customer comes to Walmart looking for a particular product that is not available at the time. Walmart looks up its syndication providers like ‘Salsify’ to find which supplier has the product and then arranges for home delivery. 

Walmart is also using other latest technologies like AI and Blockchain to track inventory down its supply chain (Aitken, 2017). The retail brand partnered with IBM to leverage blockchain technology and leverage and track food products’ movement across its supply chain to ensure their quality and authenticity. The use of IBM blockchain allowed Walmart to track the movement of goods in its supply chain faster. Something that could take days or weeks to trace using the traditional tracking methods was now possible in seconds. Blockchain -based decentralized ledgers have simplified the process of tracking goods in Walmart’s supply chain.

Digital Transformation through Cloud Technology

Cloud technology is also driving rapid transformation across the retail landscape. Retailers turn to cloud technologies to grow their efficiency and transform a large pool of data they generate daily into actionable insights. 

In 2018, when Walmart was already using a large set of Microsoft services for critical workloads, the company announced a strategic five-year partnership with the cloud leader to make its digital transformation possible. This partnership with Microsoft allowed Walmart to leverage machine learning, artificial intelligence, and data platform solutions for a wide range of external customer-facing services and internal business applications (Walmart, 2018).

Walmart aimed to transform digitally, bring innovations that saved its customers time and money, and change how work was carried out inside the organization for increased productivity. To achieve its target, the company selected a full range of Microsoft cloud solutions that included Microsoft Azure and Microsoft 365. The main advantages of using cloud technology for Walmart were going to be as follows:

  • Leverage the capacity of Microsoft’s enormous compute capacity.
  • Ability to manage workloads seamlessly in an elastic environment.
  • Bring innovations faster through the new toolsets
  • Drive costs lower through a cloud native environment.

From reducing energy consumption in the Walmart stores to managing logistics, the company uses cloud technology to make its work processes more efficient and save time and money. The company uses machine learning to route thousands of trucks in its supply chain. Apart from that, Walmart gained access to various tools that allow its associates to improve their productivity and collaborate on projects. Tools like Microsoft workplace analytics, Microsoft Stream, and Microsoft One Drive allow associates to collaborate, save time, and work better.

Walmart owned also uses cloud technologies heavily to serve customers efficiently. It has built an innovative eCommerce engine on the Azure cloud platform in less than 12 months. The platform is composed of open-source software, Visual F#, and Azure Platform as a service (PaaS) like Azure Cosmos DB. The next-generation architecture of is built for speed. It uses Panther, Azure’s next-generation inventory processing system to make its service faster, smarter, and more efficient. 

“Within just a few weeks, a prototype based on Service Fabric proved that Panther could support the massive scale and the functionality Jet needed plus high availability and blazing fast performance across multiple regions. But what really made Panther possible was adding Azure Cosmos DB for the event store. Coupling an event-sourcing pattern with a microservices-based architecture gave them the flexibility they needed to keep improving and delight their customers.” (Microsoft, 2020)

Sources Used:

Pew Research. (2020, April 28). Millennials overtake Baby Boomers as America’s largest generation . PewResearch. Retrieved 2020, from

Fortune. (2020). Fortune 500 . Fortune. Retrieved 2020, from

Marr, B. (2017). Really Big Data At Walmart: Real-Time Insights From Their 40+ Petabyte Data Cloud . Forbes. Retrieved 2020, from

Ogura, F. (2018, September). Introducing the Connected Content Partner Program . LinkedIn. Retrieved 2020, from

Salsify. (2018). Salsify Selected By Walmart To Join Its Connected Content Partner Program . Salsify. Retrieved 2020, from

Aitken, R. (2017). IBM Forges Blockchain Collaboration With Nestlé & Walmart In Global Food Safety . Forbes. Retrieved 2020, from

Microsoft. (2020, June). powers innovative e-commerce engine on Azure in less than 12 months . Microsoft Azure. Retrieved 2020, from

Walmart. (2018, July). Walmart establishes strategic partnership with Microsoft to further accelerate digital innovation in retail . Walmart Newsroom. Retrieved 2020, from

The Business Rule

The Walmart Case Study: How Walmart Became The Retail Giant

Supti Nandi

January 31, 2024

Walmart Case Study (Cover Image)

Recently, we saw a huge demand for Walmart Case Study from our readers. So here we are presenting your demand for Walmart Case Study in detail.

Walmart is often referred to as the king of the retail world. Reason? Quality goods, lucrative discounts, loyal user base, efficient customer service, and the list goes on! Many retail companies come and go. But Walmart survived for over 62 years!

Walmart Case Study (Cover Image)

Have you ever wondered how?

Due to its smart operating strategies! What are those? You may wonder. In the Walmart Case Study, we will unravel those operating strategies, that made Walmart the kind of the retail world.

Stay tuned!

(A) Synopsis: What is Walmart?

Yesterday, Walmart announced a 3-for-1 stock split to boost employee ownership! And this news created a buzz in the market. This left the folks astonished about the smart strategies opted for by Walmart that led to its multiple decade-old grand success.

So, Walmart is this huge American company that was started in 1962 by two brothers, Sam and Bud Walton, in Arkansas. They run lots of stores, like hypermarkets and discount stores, not just in the US but also in other countries.

As of October 2022, Walmart has a whopping 10,586 stores in 24 countries, under various names. They’re a big deal in places like the US, Canada, Mexico, Central America, and even India under the name Flipkart Wholesale.

You know what, Walmart is a big player globally, being the world’s largest company. How was this fact determined? You may wonder. Well, it was determined based on the revenue in 2022. They also announced a massive revenue of $611.3 billion for the fiscal year 2023. With a jaw-dropping 2.2 million employees, it’s the largest private employer worldwide.

The company has an interesting history – starting small in the 1960s and quickly becoming the most profitable US retailer by 1988. It went public on the New York Stock Exchange in 1972 and expanded from the South to coast-to-coast by the early 1990s. We will discuss the history in detail later.

While Walmart has been super successful in some countries, like Canada and the UK, it faced challenges in places like Germany, Japan, South Korea, Brazil, and Argentina. So, it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster, but overall, Walmart is a massive player in the global business game!

(B) Walmart: A Brief Overview

Before diving deeper into the Walmart Case Study, let’s have a brief overview of the company-

Wal-Mart Discount City (1962–1969)
Wal-Mart, Inc. (1969–1970)
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (1970–2018)
$445.81 billion
DJIA component
S&P 100 component
S&P 500 component
Retail Segment
July, 1962
Sam Walton,
Bud Walton
Bentonville (Arkansas, USA)
10,586 stores worldwide (October 31, 2022)
Food, drinks, groceries, clothing, footwear, beauty products, jewelry, accessories, furniture, decor, bedding, bath, electronics, appliances, housewares, toys, games, books, movies, musical instruments, pet supplies, baby products, hygiene products, health products, school and office supplies, tools, gifts, garden center, pharmacy, photo center, sporting goods, and auto center
Target, Amazon, Home Depot, Kroger, Carrefour, Alibaba, Costco

Note: Do you know Target is one of the strong competitors of Walmart? If you are curious to delve into their comparative analysis, then visit the article “ Walmart vs Target: Which one is better for public investors? ”

(C) Walmart Case Study: History & Timeline

Let me take you back to 1945 when Sam Walton, a young guy fresh from World War II, had this grand idea of building a retail empire. Fast forward to 1962, he kicks things off by opening the very first Walmart store in Rogers, Arkansas. 

His mission? Simple – provide a bunch of stuff at affordable prices and treat customers like VIPs.

Guess what? 

That mission stuck around. Walmart’s all about those wallet-friendly prices, and that’s how it’s been ruling the retail scene for ages, becoming a name you know wherever you go.

But hold up, it’s not just about low prices. Walmart’s like a treasure trove – groceries, electronics, clothes, you name it, they got it. And this winning combo of cheap goodies and a massive selection? That’s the secret sauce that’s turned Walmart into this retail giant we all know and, let’s be real, probably visit regularly.

Look at the history of Walmart in the following table-

Founded by Sam and Bud Walton in Rogers, Arkansas 
Incorporated under Delaware General Corporation Law
Listed on the New York Stock Exchange
Became the most profitable retailer in the US.
Largest retailer in terms of revenue
Expanded to the Northeastern US. The first California outlet was opened in Lancaster.
Walmart enters the grocery market.
Retail rose to multinational status and took various environmental initiatives.
Announced a joint venture with Bharti Enterprises to operate in India.
Launched a new logo and a new slogan “Save money, live better”
Walmart launched Goodies (a mail subscription service)
Became the biggest US commercial producer of solar power with 142 MW capacity & 17 energy storage projects.
Acquired a 77% majority stake in Flipkart (an Indian e-commerce company)
Stopped selling cigarettes, tobacco products, live fish, and aquatic plants.
Launched Carrier Pickup, allowing the customers to schedule returns.
Walmart Brazil’s shareholdings divested to Carrefour
Announced FY2023 total revenue of $611.3 billion  
Largest private employer with 2.2 million employees

That’s a legendary history! Isn’t it? Well, this is all about the details of our Walmart case study. Hold on. The question is still brewing- How did Walmart become the retail giant?

We will look into it. But, before that, you need to understand its business model and revenue model.

(D) Walmart Business Model

When you step into Walmart, you’re diving into a world where they keep prices low every day, making things affordable for you. It’s not just about good prices – it’s like a shopping wonderland with everything you can think of, from groceries to gadgets, all in one spot. 

The secret sauce?  They’re really good at managing how things get from the supplier to the shelves, keeping everything running smoothly. 

Plus, because Walmart is so big, they can get awesome deals and pass the savings on to you. They’re all about using smart technology to make your shopping experience top-notch, and they care about making sure you leave happy. 

So, when you’re at Walmart, it’s not just a store – it’s a place designed to give you great prices, lots of choices, and a pleasant time shopping.

Let’s look at Walmart’s business model-

Walmart’s foundational strategy revolves around offering Everyday Low Prices (EDLP). This means the company commits to providing consistently low prices on its products, aiming to attract and retain customers through affordability.
Walmart works closely with suppliers to negotiate cost-efficient terms, allowing them to pass on the savings to customers. The company is renowned for its formidable bargaining power with suppliers.
Walmart prides itself on an extensive and diverse product assortment. From groceries and household items to electronics, clothing, and more, the goal is to be a one-stop destination for consumers’ various needs.
Walmart strategically incorporates private-label or store-brand products. This gives them greater control over pricing and margins, contributing to the overall affordability proposition.
Walmart is a pioneer in implementing advanced supply chain and logistics management systems. The company’s distribution centers are strategically located for efficient product flow, ensuring a streamlined process from manufacturer to store shelves.
Walmart utilizes cutting-edge technology to manage inventory effectively. This includes systems like RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) to track merchandise throughout the supply chain, reducing stockouts and overstock situations.
Walmart leverages data analytics to understand consumer behavior, optimize inventory levels, and personalize marketing strategies. This data-driven approach enhances operational efficiency and customer satisfaction.
In response to changing consumer preferences, Walmart has invested significantly in e-commerce. The integration of online and offline channels allows customers to shop seamlessly, emphasizing convenience.
Beyond low prices, Walmart emphasizes customer service and shopping experience. The company invests in employee training to ensure courteous and helpful staff, contributing to a positive in-store experience.
Walmart continually adapts its offerings to align with evolving consumer trends. This flexibility allows the company to stay relevant and meet the changing demands of the market.
Walmart has expanded its footprint globally, operating in multiple countries under various formats, including supercenters, discount stores, and wholesale clubs.
While maintaining a consistent core business model, Walmart adapts its strategies to suit the specific needs and preferences of diverse international markets.

In essence, the Walmart business model is a comprehensive strategy that combines cost leadership, operational efficiency, technological innovation, and customer-centricity to create a retail powerhouse with a global reach.

(E) Three Crucial Segments of Walmart

Walmart Supercentre

Here comes another important part of Walmart, its three critical pillars-

(E.1) Walmart US Segment: Dominance in the Domestic Market

Under the umbrella of the Walmart U.S. segment lies the retail giant’s stronghold in the United States. With a colossal total revenue of $387.5 billion reported in February 2023, this segment encompasses the extensive network of Walmart and Sam’s Club stores across the nation. 

Offering an unparalleled variety of products, from groceries to electronics, this segment plays a pivotal role in shaping Walmart’s identity as a go-to destination for millions of American consumers. The sheer scale of revenue from this segment underscores Walmart’s unrivaled dominance in the U.S. retail landscape.

(E.2) Walmart International Segment: Global Reach and Diversification

Walmart’s global influence extends through the Walmart International segment, operating in 24 countries and boasting a network of 10,586 stores and clubs as of October 2022. 

While facing challenges in some markets, this segment has showcased resilience, with successful operations in key regions such as Canada, the United Kingdom (ASDA), Mexico, and Central America. The diverse geographical presence reflects Walmart’s commitment to meeting the diverse needs of consumers worldwide. 

This segment’s contribution to the overall revenue highlights Walmart’s strategic approach to global expansion and market diversification.

(E.3) Walmart US E-Commerce Segment: Navigating the Digital Frontier

As consumer preferences shift in the digital era, Walmart has strategically positioned itself in the online retail space through the Walmart U.S. eCommerce segment. With a notable total eCommerce sales figure of $118 billion reported in February 2023, this segment represents Walmart’s foray into the digital marketplace. 

Emphasizing the company’s adaptability, the eCommerce segment has experienced significant growth, catering to the evolving needs of tech-savvy consumers. This dynamic approach underscores Walmart’s commitment to embracing technological trends and ensuring a seamless shopping experience for customers in the ever-expanding digital frontier.

(F) Walmart Revenue Model: How does Walmart make money?

Walmart’s revenue model combines numerous aspects like traditional retail sales, online commerce, membership fees, international operations, private labels, financial services, and real estate management.

Before diving into the Walmart revenue model, let’s quickly look at its financials-

$445.81 billion
$611.3 billion
$20.4 billion
$11.29 billion
$243.45 billion
$83.754 billion
$613.466 billion

Coming to Walmart revenue model, we will break it down into the following points-

(F.1) Retail Sales

The primary source of revenue for Walmart is its extensive network of physical stores under the Walmart U.S. and Walmart International segments. These stores, including Walmart and Sam’s Club, offer a vast array of products, ranging from groceries and electronics to clothing and home goods. Revenue is generated through the sale of these products at competitive prices, aligning with Walmart’s commitment to everyday low prices (EDLP).

(F.2) E-Commerce Sales

With the growing influence of online retail, Walmart has strategically expanded its presence in the digital space. The Walmart U.S. eCommerce segment contributes significantly to revenue through online sales. Customers can purchase products through the Walmart website or mobile app, expanding Walmart’s reach and catering to consumers who prefer the convenience of online shopping.

(F.3) Membership Fees

Sam’s Club, a membership-based retail warehouse club under the Walmart umbrella, generates revenue through membership fees. Customers pay an annual fee to access exclusive deals, bulk purchasing options, and other members-only benefits.

(F.4) Global Operations

The Walmart International segment contributes to revenue through its diverse operations in 24 countries. Revenue is generated from retail sales in these international markets, where Walmart adapts its strategy to suit local consumer preferences and market dynamics.

(F.5) Private Labels and Brands

Walmart has introduced private labels and exclusive brands, including Great Value and Mainstays. These products, often sold at lower prices compared to national brands, contribute to overall revenue. Additionally, Walmart earns revenue through partnerships and collaborations with other brands, both in-store and online.

(F.6) Financial Services

Walmart provides various financial services, such as money transfers, check cashing, and prepaid debit cards, through its Walmart MoneyCenter. While not the primary revenue stream, these services contribute to the overall financial ecosystem within Walmart stores.

(F.7) Retail Estate & Leasing

Walmart owns a significant amount of real estate, including its stores and distribution centers. The company may generate additional revenue by leasing excess space in its properties to third-party businesses.

In essence, Walmart’s revenue model is multifaceted, reflecting its diverse operations. This diversified approach enables Walmart to navigate various market conditions and consumer preferences, solidifying its position as one of the world’s largest and most successful retail giants.

(G) How did Walmart become the retail giant?

Walmart Retail Store

Here we will have a quick recap of whatever you read till now. Walmart’s ascent to retail giant status can be attributed to several key factors, each playing a crucial role in its success. Let’s break them down one by one-

(G.1) Foundational Principles

Walmart was founded on the principles of offering a wide variety of products at low prices while treating customers with respect and dignity. From its inception in 1962, founder Sam Walton emphasized the importance of serving the needs of the average American family by providing affordable goods and exceptional customer service.

(G.2) EDLP (Everyday Low Prices)

Walmart revolutionized the retail industry by adopting the EDLP strategy. Rather than relying on periodic sales and promotions, Walmart committed to maintaining consistently low prices across its products. This approach not only attracted budget-conscious consumers but also instilled trust and loyalty among shoppers who knew they could rely on Walmart for affordability.

(G.3) Supply Chain Efficiency

Walmart invested heavily in optimizing its supply chain and logistics operations. Through innovative technologies and streamlined processes, Walmart was able to reduce costs, minimize inventory holding times, and improve product availability. This efficiency allowed Walmart to pass on savings to customers while maintaining healthy profit margins.

(G.4) Scale and Expansion

Walmart’s aggressive expansion strategy played a pivotal role in its growth trajectory. The company rapidly expanded its footprint across the United States, opening new stores and acquiring existing chains. This expansion was not limited to domestic markets; Walmart also ventured into international territories, establishing a global presence in multiple countries.

(G.5) Diverse Product Assortment

Walmart’s extensive product assortment became a hallmark of its success. Beyond traditional retail categories like groceries and apparel, Walmart diversified its offerings to include electronics, home goods, automotive supplies, and more. This breadth of selection appealed to a wide range of consumers, further solidifying Walmart’s position as a one-stop destination for shopping needs.

(G.6) Technological Innovation

Walmart embraced technology as a catalyst for growth and efficiency. The company invested in advanced systems for inventory management, point-of-sale operations, and data analytics. These technological advancements not only enhanced operational efficiency but also enabled Walmart to better understand consumer behavior and preferences, facilitating targeted marketing and product assortment strategies.

(G.7) Customer-Centric Approach

Throughout its evolution, Walmart maintained a steadfast commitment to customer satisfaction. Whether through its price match guarantee, hassle-free return policy, or friendly in-store experience, Walmart prioritized the needs and preferences of its customers. This customer-centric approach fostered strong brand loyalty and repeat business.

Thus, Walmart’s journey to retail giant status was propelled by a combination of visionary leadership, innovative strategies, operational excellence, and unwavering dedication to customer value. By staying true to its core principles while continuously adapting to changing market dynamics, Walmart has cemented its place as one of the world’s most influential and successful retail organizations.

(H) Flipkart Acquisition: Walmart’s Strategic Move

Walmart acquired Flipkart

In 2018, Walmart made a groundbreaking move by acquiring Flipkart, India’s largest e-commerce platform. This strategic move marked Walmart’s entry into the rapidly growing Indian retail market, positioning itself for a piece of the action in one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. 

The acquisition came with a hefty price tag of $16 billion, granting Walmart an impressive 77% stake in Flipkart, solidifying it as the largest-ever deal in the Indian e-commerce sector.

Let’s look at some of the significant consequences of the Flipkart acquisition-

  • Market Presence Amplified: Walmart’s acquisition allowed it to step into the thriving Indian e-commerce market, projected to become one of the largest globally. Flipkart, boasting over 200 million registered users, presented Walmart with a golden ticket to tap into a diverse array of products and a vast customer base.
  • Technological Upgrade: Leveraging Flipkart’s technological prowess, Walmart fortified its online capabilities to stand tall among major e-commerce players. Flipkart’s innovative features like mobile payments, product recommendations, and data analytics became valuable tools for Walmart, enhancing the overall customer experience.
  • Logistics Overhaul: Flipkart’s robust supply chain and logistics infrastructure in India became Walmart’s ace in the delivery game. The acquisition empowered Walmart to elevate its delivery and fulfillment capabilities, with Flipkart’s expertise in last-mile delivery and supply chain automation proving to be invaluable.
  • Amazon Rivalry: Walmart’s move was not just a business strategy; it was a direct response to Amazon’s rapid expansion in India. The acquisition of Flipkart strategically positioned Walmart to challenge Amazon’s dominance in the Indian e-commerce market, intensifying the competition between these retail giants.
  • Financial Boost: The Flipkart acquisition significantly contributed to Walmart’s financial performance. In the fiscal year 2021, Walmart’s international net sales saw a notable 1.3% increase, fueled in part by robust growth in India, showcasing the financial gains resulting from this strategic move.

As of 2021, Walmart asserted a 9.3% share of the global retail market, outpacing Amazon’s 2.3% and Costco’s 1.6%. This not only underscores Walmart’s dominance but also highlights the impact of strategic acquisitions in fortifying its global retail presence.

That’s how Walmart’s acquisition of Flipkart was more than just a business deal. It was an efficient strategic move that unlocked new opportunities, transformed technological capabilities, and propelled Walmart into the vibrant and competitive landscape of Indian e-commerce.

(I) Marketing Strategies: An Integral Part of Walmart Case Study

Walmart Case Study

Creating a winning marketing plan is key for survival in today’s market, and Walmart has a unique strategy to make its mark. Walmart plays the game of business marketing with a powerful approach called market penetration. It’s like diving in, offering you, the customer, not just low prices but seriously competitive ones. 

This isn’t just a random strategy; it’s part of Walmart’s cost leadership game plan, and let me tell you, it’s working like a charm, raking in massive profits.

The following table describes some of the most effective marketing strategies of Walmart-

Walmart doesn’t just wade into the market; it dives in with market penetration. This approach is all about capturing your attention by offering not just low prices but seriously competitive ones.
Walmart’s cost leadership strategy isn’t just a game-changer; it’s a profit magnet. By providing low prices and treating every customer like royalty, they’ve found the sweet spot for business success.
At Walmart, you’re not just a customer; you’re the king or queen of the market. The company’s commitment to treating customers with utmost respect builds a strong bond that goes beyond just transactions.
According to Walmart, your choice of retailer is guided by four pillars: price, access, experience, and assortment. It’s about more than just cost; it’s about making your shopping journey enjoyable and convenient.
Walmart’s strategy involves buying bulk from local manufacturers and selling in smaller quantities. It’s not just a business move; it’s a community win. More products from local manufacturers mean more jobs and a reduction in unemployment rates.
Walmart’s commitment extends beyond quantity. They believe in offering top-quality products at prices that make sense for you, maintaining a delicate balance between affordability and excellence.
Walmart’s local sourcing isn’t just about products; it’s about creating jobs. By supporting local manufacturers, they contribute to economic growth and reduce unemployment.
This strategy isn’t just about business; it’s about creating a sustainable relationship with customers. Quality, affordability, and community impact form the pillars of Walmart’s global-local approach.

So, what’s their secret sauce? Walmart treats every customer like royalty, making you feel like the king or queen of the market. 

According to Walmart, four things guide your decision on where to shop: price, access, experience, and assortment. It’s not just about what you pay; it’s about how easy it is to get what you want, the overall shopping experience, and the variety of stuff they offer. It’s like Walmart saying, “We’ve got it all, and we’ve got it at a great price.”

But here’s a cool twist in their strategy: Walmart goes local.  

Yep, they buy heaps of stuff from local manufacturers all at once and then sell it to you in smaller quantities. It’s a win-win situation. By buying local, they’re not just bagging good deals; they’re also creating jobs and helping tackle unemployment. And hey, it’s not just about quantity; it’s about quality too. 

Walmart believes in offering you top-notch products at prices that won’t leave your wallet weeping.

So, there you have it – Walmart’s marketing magic is a blend of rock-bottom prices, treating you like royalty, giving you a shopping experience to remember, and making sure there’s a bit of everything for everyone. 

It’s not just a shopping trip; it’s a journey where you’re not just a customer; you’re the ruler of the market! That’s what Walmart claims…

(J) Wrapping Up the Walmart Case Study

Shopping- Walmart Case Study

Here comes the final part of the Walmart case study. Here you went through Walmart’s journey to retail giant status. All of it is a testament to visionary leadership, strategic adaptability, and customer-centric innovation.

From its foundation on the principles of everyday low prices to aggressive global expansion and astute acquisitions like Flipkart, Walmart has continuously evolved. The company’s commitment to technological advancements, supply chain efficiency, and community engagement sets it apart. 

As of 2021, with a 9.3% share of the global retail market, Walmart’s success underscores the significance of a holistic approach – one that prioritizes affordability, diversity, and a deep understanding of evolving market dynamics in shaping the retail landscape.

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How Walmart brought unprecedented transparency to the food supply chain with Hyperledger Fabric

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When an outbreak of a food-borne disease happens, it can take days, if not weeks, to find its source. Better traceability could help save lives by allowing companies to act faster and protect the livelihoods of farmers by only discarding produce from the affected farms.

Walmart thought that blockchain technology might be a good fit for the decentralized food supply ecosystem. To test this hypothesis, the company created a food traceability system based on Hyperledger Fabric. Walmart, together with its technology partner IBM, ran two proof of concept projects to test the system. One project was about tracing mangos sold in Walmart’s US stores and the other aimed to trace pork sold in its China stores.

The Hyperledger Fabric blockchain-based food traceability system built for the two products worked. For pork in China, it allowed uploading certificates of authenticity to the blockchain, bringing more trust to a system where that used to be a serious issue. And for mangoes in the US, the time needed to trace their provenance went from 7 days to… 2.2 seconds!

Walmart can now trace the origin of over 25 products from 5 different suppliers using a system powered by Hyperledger Fabric. The company plans to roll out the system to more products and categories in the near future. In fact, it has recently   announced   that it will start requiring all of its suppliers of fresh leafy greens (like salad and spinach) to trace their products using the system.


Tracking food for better safety

We rarely think about it, but the modern food system is a marvel. We have access to fresh produce all year round, buy exotic food from all around the world, and have more variety than our ancestors could ever dream of.

Our food is generally safe to eat. Still, occasionally it can make us sick. Last year in 2018 there were at least   18 reported outbreaks   of foodborne illnesses in the USA, including the E. coli found in romaine lettuce.

“People talk about the food supply chain,” says Frank Yiannas, former Vice President of Food Safety at Walmart. “But it is not actually a chain, it’s a complex network.” When an outbreak of a food-borne disease does happen, it can take days, if not weeks, to find its source. If investigators cannot point to a specific farm or farms, the government usually advises consumers to avoid products grown in a certain area (as   happened   with romaine lettuce from Yuma, Arizona), or even to avoid the type of product altogether. According to   Walmart , millions of bags or heads of lettuce had to be removed, and consumers lost confidence in romaine lettuce altogether. Better traceability could help save lives by allowing companies to act faster and protect the livelihoods of farmers by only discarding produce from the affected farms.

For this reason, Walmart has always been interested in enhancing transparency and traceability in the food system. Mr. Yiannas explains that the company has tried many systems and approaches to solving this problem over the years; none had brought them the kind of results they were after. When Yiannas first heard about blockchain and the idea of using it to trace food in the supply chain, he was skeptical.

Screenshot 2023-07-29 at 11.11.37 PM

From blockchain skeptic to believer

Karl Bedwell, Senior Director at Walmart Technology, explains, “Creating a (traceability) system for the entire food supply ecosystem has been a challenge for years, and no one had figured it out. We thought that blockchain technology might be a good fit for this problem, because of its focus on trust, immutability, and transparency.”

Bedwell and his team introduced Yiannas to the possibilities of blockchain technologies for enterprise solutions. Says Yiannas, “I really had an “aha” moment once I deeply understood the technology. I had been hesitant about creating yet another traceability system – the ones we had tried in the past never scaled. Now I understand that was because they were centralized databases. Blockchain, with its decentralized, shared ledger felt like it was made for the food system!”

With the business interest in blockchain technology confirmed, Walmart started working on two proof of concept (POC) projects with their technology partner IBM.


Choosing the blockchain

Walmart Technology considered several blockchain technologies but ultimately decided to go for Hyperledger Fabric.

“IBM brought Hyperledger Fabric to us. We looked into Ethereum, Burrow project and others. Ultimately, we decided to go with Hyperledger Fabric because it met most of our needs for a blockchain technology,” Bedwell said. “We felt that it best met our needs. It is an enterprise-grade blockchain technology, and it is permissioned.”

The team also found it important to work with an open-source, vendor-neutral blockchain. Since the food traceability system was meant to be used by many parties, including Walmart’s suppliers and even direct competitors, the technology ecosystem underlying it needed to be open.

Hyperledger Fabric is a blockchain framework implementation and one of the Hyperledger projects hosted by The Linux Foundation. Intended as a foundation for developing applications or solutions with a modular architecture, Hyperledger Fabric allows components, such as consensus and membership services, to be plug-and-play. Hyperledger Fabric leverages container technology to host smart contracts called “chaincode” that comprise the application logic of the system.

For mangoes in the US, the time needed to trace their provenance went from 7 days to… 2.2 seconds!


In October 2016, Walmart, together with its technology partner IBM, announced the two projects: one was about tracing the origin of mangos sold in Walmart’s US stores and the other aimed to trace pork sold in its China stores.

For the mango POC, Yiannas started by creating a benchmark. He bought a packet of sliced mangoes at a nearby Walmart store and asked his team to identify which farm they had come from – as fast as possible. The team started calling and emailing distributors and suppliers, and eventually had an answer almost seven days later. This was not bad by industry standards, but Walmart wanted to do much better. So together with IBM, they got to work building a blockchain-based food traceability system.

The Walmart Technology team looked at their own processes as well as those of their suppliers to design the application. Archana Sristy, Director of Engineering at Walmart, explains, “[Our team at Walmart Technology] co-led the core design and setup of the application (with IBM), as well as built the integration with the enterprise systems. We worked with GS1 (the standards authority in barcodes and labeling) to define the data attributes for upload to the blockchain. IBM wrote the chaincode.

Suppliers used new labels and uploaded their data through a web-based interface.


From POC to production, from Walmart to IBM Food Trust

Once Walmart saw that the system worked, they wanted to expand it – and not just within Walmart. Given the interconnected nature of the food system and the company’s negative experience with closed systems, Walmart wanted to make sure that this time, many players were involved. Says Yiannas, “(Walmart’s) CEO was reaching out to other food companies the next day, including other retailers!” Wal-Mart collaborated with IBM and others to set up   IBM Food Trust , involving prominent players in the food industry, like Nestle and Unilever.

The Walmart team had a positive experience working with Hyperledger. “Every question that we had, it looked like the Hyperledger community had already been working on addressing that,” says Bedwell. For example, in building a truly open system, the Walmart team worried about interoperability with other blockchain-based traceability systems. And as if in answer to their concern, Hyperledger recently   announced   its collaboration with Ethereum. He adds, “It seems that the Hyperledger community is addressing everything that enterprises would be concerned about.”

Says Yiannas, “I really had an ‘aha’ moment once I deeply understood the technology. I had been hesitant about creating yet another traceability system – the ones we had tried in the past never scaled. Now I understand that was because they were centralized databases. Blockchain, with its decentralized, shared ledger felt like it was made for the food system!”

Tips from Frank Yiannas on implementing your blockchain project

1. Let the business lead the project , not the IT department.

2. Understand the business case deeply.  Make sure that you know and can explain why blockchain is the right solution.

3.   In a large organization, you need to   bring a lot of people along.  Think about all the different departments that will be affected by the projects. Meet with these stakeholders early on and explain what you are trying to do.

4. Have your soundbite!   People don’t get inspired by technology, but by a vision. For us, it was the story of mangoes – 7 days vs. 2.2 seconds with blockchain.

5. Participate in forums   that allow you to speak to other companies who have launched similar projects successfully. It helps if you help an expert in the field who’s willing to come in and educate fellow members.

6. Start small, with a POC.  And when you’ve run your pilots and are convinced about the business value, go ahead and scale. After all, Yiannas says, “Walmart is a pretty big lab! If it can scale at Walmart, it can scale anywhere!”


Looking forward

Walmart now traces over 25 products from 5 different suppliers using IBM Blockchain which is built atop Hyperledger Fabric. The products include produce such as mangoes, strawberries and leafy greens; meat and poultry such as chicken and pork; dairy such as yogurt and almond milk; and even multi-ingredient products such as packaged salads and baby foods.

Yiannas says of the impact, “This solution allows us to see the whole chain in seconds! We can take a jar of baby food and see where it was manufactured and trace back all the ingredients to the farms!”

Walmart plans to roll out the system to more products and categories in the near future in cooperation with IBM Food Trust.. In fact, the company recently   announced   that it will start requiring all of its suppliers of fresh leafy greens (like salad and spinach) to trace their products using the system.

“Using the IBM Food Trust network that relies on blockchain technology, we have shown that we can reduce the amount of time it takes to track a food item from a Walmart Store back to source in seconds, as compared to days or sometimes weeks,” Walmart wrote in a   letter   to suppliers.

Beyond tracing the products’ journey, the company might start tracing other data, like sustainability.


About Walmart

Walmart Inc. (NYSE: WMT) helps people around the world save money and live better – anytime and anywhere – in retail stores, online, and through their mobile devices. Each week, nearly 265 million customers and members visit our more than 11,200 stores under 55 banners in 27 countries and eCommerce websites. With fiscal year 2018 revenue of $500.3 billion, Walmart employs over 2.2 million associates worldwide. Walmart continues to be a leader in sustainability, corporate philanthropy and employment opportunity. Additional information about Walmart can be found by visiting .

About Hyperledger

Hyperledger is an open source collaborative effort created to advance cross-industry blockchain technologies. It is a global collaboration including leaders in banking, finance, Internet of Things, manufacturing, supply chain, and technology. The Linux Foundation hosts Hyperledger under the foundation. To learn more, visit

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Home » Management Case Studies » Case Study: Business Strategy Analysis of Wal-Mart

Case Study: Business Strategy Analysis of Wal-Mart

Sam Walton, a leader with an innovative vision, started his own company and made it into the leader in discount retailing that it is today. Through his savvy, and sometimes unusual, business practices, he and his associates led the company forward for thirty years. Today, four years after his death, the company is still growing steadily. Wal-Mart executives continue to rely on many of the traditional goals and philosophies that Sam’s legacy left behind, while simultaneously keeping one step ahead of the ever-changing technology and methods of today’s fast-paced business environment . The organization has faced, and is still facing, a significant amount of controversy over several different issues; however, none of these have done much more than scrape the exterior of this gigantic operation. The future also looks bright for Wal-Mart, especially if it is able to strike a comfortable balance between increasing its profits and recognizing its social and ethical responsibilities .

Why is Wal-Mart so Successful ? Is it Good Strategy or Good Strategy Implementation ? In 1962, when Sam Walton opened the first Wal-Mart store in Rogers, Arkansas, no one could have ever predicted the enormous success this small-town merchant would have. Sam Walton’s talent for discount retailing not only made Wal-Mart the world’s largest retailer, but also the world’s number one retailer in sales. Indeed, Wal-Mart was named “Retailer of the Decade” by Discount Store News in 1989, and on several occasions has been included in Fortune’s list of the “10 most admired corporations.” Even with Walton’s death (after a two-year battle with bone cancer) in 1992, Wal-Mart’s sales continue to grow significantly.

walmart retailer case study

Regarded by many as the entrepreneur of the century, Walton had a reputation for caring about his customers, his employees (or “associates” as he referred to them), and the community. In order to maintain its market position in the discount retail business, Wal-Mart executives continue to adhere to the management guidelines Sam developed. Walton was a man of simple tastes and took a keen interest in people. He believed in three guiding principles: 1. Customer value and service; 2. Partnership with its associates; 3. Community involvement.

  • The Customer — The word “always” can be seen in virtually all of Wal-Mart’s literature. One of Walton’s deepest beliefs was that the customer is always right, and his stores are still driven by this philosophy. When questioned about Wal-Mart’s secrets of success , Walton has been quoted as saying, “It has to do with our desire to exceed our customers’ expectations every hour of every day”.
  • The Associates — Walton’s greatest accomplishment was his ability to empower, enrich, and train his employees. He believed in listening to employees and challenging them to come up with ideas and suggestions to make the company better. At each of the Wal-Mart stores, signs are displayed which read, “Our People Make the Difference.” Associates regularly make suggestions for cutting costs through their “Yes We Can Sam” program. The sum of the savings generated by the associates actually paid for the construction of a new store in Texas. One of Wal-Mart’s goals was to provide its employees with the appropriate tools to do their jobs efficiently. The technology was not used as a means of replacing existing employees, but to provide them with a means to succeed in the retail market.
  • The Community — Wal-Mart’s popularity can be linked to its hometown identity. Walton believed that every customer should be greeted upon entering a store, and that each store should be a reflection of the values of its customers and its community. Wal-Mart is involved in many community outreach programs and has launched several national efforts through industrial development grants.

What are the Key Features of Wal-Mart’s Approach to Implementing the Strategy Put Together by Sam Walton — The key features of Wal-Mart’s approach to implementing the strategy put together by Sam Walton emphasizes building solid working relationships with both suppliers and employees, being aware and taking notice of the most intricate details in store layouts and merchandising techniques, capitalizing on every cost saving opportunity, and creating a high performance spirit. This strategic formula is used to provide customers access to quality goods, to make these goods available when and where customers want them, to develop a cost structure that enables competitive pricing , and to build and maintain a reputation for absolute trustworthiness.

Wal-Mart stores operate according to their “Everyday Low Price” philosophy. Wal-Mart has emerged as the industry leader because it has been better at containing its costs which has allowed it to pass on the savings to its customers. Wal-Mart has become a capabilities competitor. It continues to improve upon its key business processes, managing them centrally and investing in them heavily for the long term payback. Wal-Mart has been regarded as an industry leader in testing, adapting, and applying a wide range of cutting-edge merchandising approaches. Walton proved to be a visionary leader and was known for his ability to quickly learn from his competitors’ successes and failures. In fact, the founder of Kmart once claimed that Walton not only copied our concepts, he strengthened them. Sam just took the ball and ran with it.

Wal-Mart has invested heavily in its unique cross-docking inventory system . Cross docking has enabled Wal-Mart to achieve economies of scale which reduces its costs of sales. With this system, goods are continuously delivered to stores within 48 hours and often without having to inventory them. Lower prices also eliminate the expense of frequent sales promotions and sales are more predictable. Cross docking gives the individual managers more control at the store level.

A company owned transportation system also assists Wal-Mart in shipping goods from warehouse to store in less than 48 hours. This allows Wal-Mart to replenish the shelves 4 times faster than its competition. Wal-Mart owns the largest and most sophisticated computer system in the private sector. It uses a MPP (massively parallel processor) computer system to track stock and movement which keeps it abreast of fast changes in the market. Information related to sales and inventory is disseminated via its advanced satellite communications system.

Wal-Mart has leveraged its volume buying power with its suppliers. It negotiates the best prices from its vendors and expects commitments of quality merchandise. The purchasing agents of Wal-Mart are very focused people. Their highest priority is making sure everybody at all times in all cases knows who’s in charge, and it’s Wal-Mart. Even though Wal-Mart was tough in negotiating for absolute rock-bottom prices, the company worked closely with suppliers to develop mutual respect and to forge long-term partnerships that benefited both parties. Wal-Mart built an automated reordering system linking computers between Procter & Gamble (P&G) and its stores and distribution centers. The computer system sends a signal from a store to P&G identifying an item low in stock. It then sends a resupply order, via satellite, to the nearest P&G factory, which then ships the item to a Wal-Mart distribution center or directly to the store. This interaction between Wal-Mart and P&G is a win-win proposition because with better coordination, P&G can lower its costs and pass some of the savings on to Wal-Mart.

Sam Walton received national attention through his “Buy America” policy. Through this plan, Wal-Mart encourages its buyers and merchandise managers to stock stores with American-made products. In a 1993 annual report management stated the program demonstrates a long-standing Wal-Mart commitment to our customers that we will buy American-made products whenever we can if those products deliver the same quality and affordability as their foreign-made counterparts.

Environmental concerns are important to Wal-Mart. A prototype store was opened in Lawrence, Kansas, which was designed to be environmentally friendly. The store contains environmental education and recycling centers. Wal-Mart has also adopted the low cost theme for its facilities. All offices, including the corporate headquarters, are built economically and furnished simply. To conserve energy, temperature controls are connected via computer to headquarters. Through these programs, Wal-Mart shows its concern for the community.

Wal-Mart has been led from the top but run from the bottom, a strategy developed by Sam Walton and carried on by a small group of senior executives led by CEO David Glass. Although recent growth has led Wal-Mart to add more management layers, senior executives strive to maintain its unique culture. This culture, described as “one part Southern Baptist evangelism, one part University of Arkansas Razorback teamwork, and one part IBM hardware” has worked to Wal-Mart’s advantage.

Just how Successful is Wal-Mart? — A forecast of Wal-Mart’s income for the period 1995-2000, considering increases of 30.6% in Net Sales, 27.7% in Operating Expenses, and 52.3% in Interest Debt (a level which is below Wal-Mart’s historically compounded growth rate of 55.6%) indicates that the company should continue to report gains each year until 2000.

Growth on Sales — According to most analysts and company projections, sales should approximate $115 billion by 1996, representing an increase of 30.6% as compared to 1995. If the company continues at this pace, sales should reach $334 billion by the year 2000. The growth on sales that Wal-Mart reported during the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s will be difficult to repeat, especially considering the ever-changing marketplace in which it competes. In an interview, Bill Fields, President of the Stores Division, said “Wal-Mart is now seeing price pressure from companies that once assiduously avoided taking it on. These include specialty retailers such as Limited, category killers like Home Depot and Circuit City, and catalog companies like Spiegel. I think everybody prices off of Wal-Mart. You’ve got Limited reaching levels we’d thought they’d never get to. The result is that everyday low prices are getting lower”.

In addition, the baby-boomers are reaching their peak earnings years, when financial and personal priorities change. Thus, savings, not spending, will likely take precedence because most baby-boomers are approaching retirement.

Debt Position — Based on Wal-Mart’s position in 1994, which was considered a year of expansion for the company, (Wal-Mart added 103 new discount stores, 38 “Supercenters”, 163 warehouse clubs, and 94,000 new associates) interest debt increased 52.3%. The cost paid by Wal-Mart to finance property plants and equipment forced the company to increase long term debt by 4.6 times during the period 1991-1995. Long term debt for 1995 is $7.9 billion. If Wal-Mart continues its expansion plans based on more debt acquisition at 1994 levels, the company may not attain forecasted gains by as early as 1998.

Operating Expenses — Operating expenses will be a key strategic issue for Wal-Mart in order to maintain its position in the market. The challenge is how to run more stores with less operating expenses. According to Bill Fields, “. . . the goal is to increase sales per square foot and drive operating costs down yet another notch”. Trends indicate that operating expenses have been growing at a rate of 27.7% in recent years. However, Wal-Mart should reap the benefits of its investments in high technology, and be able to operate more stores without increasing its expenses.

Cost of Sales — Cost of sales historically has been equal to the level of sales. If the company continues to take advantage of its buying power, Wal-Mart can expect to lower its cost of sales.

Wal-Mart’s future will depend on how well the company manages its expansion plans. For the coming years, the company will need to justify its expansion plans with consistent growth in sales, in order to offset the increases in debt interest and operating expenses.

What Problems are Ahead for Wal-Mart? What Risks? — Throughout the 1980s, Wal-Mart’s strategic intent was to unseat industry leaders Sears and Kmart, and become the largest retailer in the U.S. Wal-Mart accomplished this goal in 1991. But Wal-Mart’s current strong competitive position and its past rapid growth performance can’t guarantee that the company will remain as the industry leader or maintain its strong business position in the future. Carol Farmer, a retail consultant, told the Wall Street Journal that, “One little bad thing can wipe out lots of good things”. Every move in its business operation ought to be well thought-out and executed.

Wal-Mart needs to address two major areas in order to maintain or to capture an even stronger long term business position: 1) Single-business strategy — Wal-Mart’s success is mainly based on its concentration of a single-business strategy. This strategy has achieved enviable success over the last three decades without relying upon diversification to sustain its growth and competitive advantages . Given its current position in the industry, Wal-Mart may want to continue its single-business strategy and to push hard to maintain and increase market share. However, there is risk in this strategy, because concentration on a single-business strategy is similar to “putting all of a firm’s eggs in one industry basket”. In other words, if the retail industry stagnates due to an economic downturn, Wal-Mart might have difficulty achieving past profit performance.

Also, if Wal-Mart continues to follow Sam Walton’s vision of expansion, Wal-Mart will reach its peak in the very near future. When it does, its growth will start to slow down and the company will need to turn its strategic attention to diversification for future growth .

2) Social responsibility — Retail stores can compete on several bases: service, price, exclusivity, quality, and fashion. Wal-Mart has been extremely successful in competing in the retail industry by combining service, price, and quality. However, other merchants may object to Wal-Mart’s entry into their community. Because of its ability to out-price smaller competitors, Wal-Mart’s stores threaten smaller neighborhood stores which can only survive if they offer merchandise or services unavailable anywhere else. This makes it very hard for small businesses, such as “mom-and-pop” enterprises, to survive. They, therefore, fight to keep Wal-Mart from entering their locales. Numerous studies conducted in different states both support and criticize Wal-Mart. Nevertheless, Wal-Mart did drive local merchants out of business when it opened up stores in the same neighborhood. As a result, more and more rural communities are waging war against Wal-Mart’s entrance into their market. Besides protesting and signing petitions to attempt to stop Wal-Mart’s entry into their community, the opposition’s efforts can even be found on The Internet. Gig Harbor, a small town in Washington, recently started a World Wide Web page entitled “Us Against the Wal.” The town’s neighborhood association promised that they “will fight them [Wal-Mart] tooth and nail”.

The increasing opposition indicates that the road ahead for Wal-Mart may not be as smooth as Wal-Mart’s annual report would entail. This requires Wal-Mart to rethink its expansion strategy since it would not be profitable to operate in an unfriendly community.

How Big Will Wal-Mart be in Five Years if all Continues to go Well? — Before he died, Sam Walton expressed his belief that by the year 2000 Wal-Mart should be able to double the number of stores to about 3,000 and to reach sales of $125 billion annually. Walton predicted that the four biggest sources of growth potential would be the following: 1. expanding into states where it had no stores; 2. continuing to saturate its current markets with new stores; 3. perfecting the Supercenter format to expand Wal-Mart’s retailing reach into the grocery and supermarket arena — a market with annual sales of about $375 billion; 4. moving into international markets.

Wal-Mart Supercenters represent leveraging on customer loyalty and procurement muscle in order to create a new domestic growth vehicle for the company. With few locations left in the U.S. to put a new Sam’s Club or traditional Wal-Mart, the Supercenter division has emerged as the domestic vehicle for taking Wal-Mart to $100 billion in sales. Before the Supercenter, Walton experimented with a massive “Hypermart”, encompassing more than 230,000 square feet in size. The idea failed. Customers complained that the produce was not fresh or well-presented and that it was difficult to find things in a store so big that inventory clerks had to wear roller skates. One of Walton’s philosophies was that traveling on the road to success required failing at times.

As a result of the unsuccessful experiment, Walton launched a revised concept: the Supercenter, a combination discount and grocery store that was smaller than the Hypermart. The Supercenter was intended to give Wal-Mart improved drawing power in its existing markets by providing a one-stop shopping destination. Supercenters would have the full array of general merchandise found in traditional Wal-Mart stores, as well as a full-scale supermarket, delicatessen, fresh bakery, and other specialty shops like hair salons, portrait studios, dry cleaners, and optical wear departments. Supercenters would measure 125,000 to 150,000 square feet, and target locations where sales per store of $30 to $50 million annually were feasible.

Walton’s prediction was right on target. The Supercenter division more than doubled in size during 1993, then doubled again in 1994. Supercenters, once thought of as risky because of slim profit margins on the food side, will most likely make Wal-Mart the nation’s largest grocery retailer within the next five to seven years.

Expanding overseas, Wal-Mart moved into the international market in 1991 through a joint-venture partnership with CIFRA S.A. de C.V., Mexico’s leading retailer. Since then the company has entered Canada, Hong Kong, mainland China, Puerto Rico, Argentina, and Brazil. The Wal-Mart International Division was officially formed in 1994 to manage the company’s international growth. By the year 2000, analysts expect Wal-Mart to be a huge international retailer, with numerous locations in South America, Europe, and Asia.

Conclusion — The ever-changing market presents continuing challenges to retailers. First and foremost, retailers must recognize the strong implications of a “buyers’ market”. Customers are being offered a wide choice of shopping experiences, but no one operation can capture them all. Therefore, it is incumbent upon management to define their target market and direct their energies toward solving that specific market’s problems. Technology, demographics, consumer attitudes, and the advent of a global economy are all conspiring to rewrite the rules for success. Success in the next decade will depend upon the level of understanding retailers have about the new values, expectations, and needs of the customer. If Wal-Mart continues its customer-driven culture, it should remain a retail industry leader well into the next century.

Related posts:

  • Case Study: An Assessment of Wal-Mart’s Global Expansion Strategy
  • Case Study: Wal-Mart’s Failure in Germany
  • Case Study: Wal-Mart’s Distribution and Logistics System
  • Case Study: Ryanair Business Strategy Analysis
  • Business Level Strategies – Cases of Wal-Mart, Apple, Zara and Ikea
  • Case Study: Pfizer’s Strategy Analysis
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When it comes to using automation in retail operations, Walmart has long been a leader. They were an early adopter of the barcode and the standardization of the Universal Product Code (UPC) that was the key to making the barcode ubiquitous. And researchers widely credit Walmart’s adoption with starting the shift in the balance of power between manufacturers and retailers (The article link is to a write-up of a Frontline episode from 2004 that featured Walmart and looks ahead to RFID at the time, which is an interesting flashback all by itself). As the leader in driving that shift, Walmart’s own rise was almost inevitable.

Walmart tried to put a similar stake in the ground with RFID in the 2003-2004 timeframe. I worked for a supply chain exception management software company at the time, and RFID + SCEM actually held a lot of possibility, especially considering the enormous amount of data that RFID would generate vs. only the exceptions from expectations as the only thing that people actually cared about.

However, Walmart wanted to focus RFID upstream in the supply chain – inbound, and then outbound to stores. At the time, there were big constraints that basically forced that focus area – tags were expensive and the basic physics of metal cans, metal shelves, and lots of liquids made in-store reads very unreliable (those physics haven’t changed, by the way). Tags slapped on cardboard boxes, however, were cheaper, easier, and more reliable. The problem was, the business case wasn’t in a better license plate. It was in in-store inventory accuracy. In its own way, Walmart actually ended up delaying the progression of RFID by setting mandates that forced manufacturers to push back heavily. The business case wasn’t there, and no one was happy to invest for “do it now so that maybe we can get to benefits later”, especially when the costs to implement were still very high – and that doesn’t even count labor costs.

In the meantime, it wasn’t even clear that RFID was the right solution to in-store inventory, especially in those challenging physics environments. We’re still only on the cusp of RFID becoming a standard expectation for the fashion industry. And even in an environment of much less dense products, few if any liquids, and very little metal, fashion still has to deal with physics issues, like figuring out if a product is in the back room or on the sales floor because of bleed-over reads through walls.

But, regardless, Walmart was very early into RFID, and to their credit, continued to work to refine in-store inventory tracking both with RFID (little sponge-y cushions on the tags to remove the antenna from a metal can, anyone?) and with alternatives, like camera-vision robots doing the “Roomba” through stores.

Best High-Yield Savings Accounts Of 2024

Best 5% interest savings accounts of 2024, the digital shelf labels era.

Walmart has now announced that they are going to roll out digital shelf labels (DSL’s) to 2,300 stores by 2026. I was first introduced to DSL’s – back then, we called them “electronic shelf labels” or ESLs, and you might still find places that refer to them like that. In the omnichannel age, where in-store technology strategy is focused on trying to bring more digital influence into stores, I guess it makes sense to update the term.

When they were first introduced, like with RFID there were some cost challenges. The DSLs of the time were pretty clunky with a wide band around the screen. And think more Kindle reader kind of experience than tablet – it was digital paper, basically, that could be updated remotely. You could get color for a lot more money, and you could potentially make it do things like flash between colors to try to get the shopper’s attention, but that then drained the battery life.

Oh yes, and there was no consensus on how to power them. Batteries came first, mostly because no one wanted to ask a retailer to run power to every shelf on every four-foot section of a grocery store, and then there was the whole question of what to do in refrigerated sections.

DSLs Still Have Constraints

A lot of those challenges have been solved. The devices have become cheaper, there are more options to power them, and real screens – even touch screens – have become much, much cheaper. The devices can come with a whole array of options for interactivity even without touch. The resolution has evolved to where you can display a QR code on the screen, which consumers can scan with their own phones. Or you can use NFC or Bluetooth to connect.

And what consumers can do is much greater as well, given that connectivity. Walmart in particular has invested a lot in their consumer mobile app, with one of the better plays on in-store mode as well. This makes it easier to offload a lot of the work that the industry originally assumed the label would have to do – offload it right onto the consumer phone.

However, there are still a lot of operational challenges for deploying DSL’s, especially in a grocery environment. You need very high display compliance. The right sign has to be underneath the right product. And you have to provide escape hatches for stores. Sometimes shipments get lost or damaged, and sometimes it just looks way better to pull the tag for the item that’s missing and fill it with something else, than it is to leave a hole that’s not going to be filled.

You also still need to monitor those DSL’s very closely. Has one been moved? Why? Is it where it needs to be? Has one lost power or connectivity? Now you need to alert someone in the store and send them there to check it out. Are they all connected and displaying the right expected prices? These questions need to be top of mind when looking into a deployment. It’s true you can save a lot of labor dollars, but you won’t get all of that savings – some of it is going to have to be spent on compliance and maintenance.

The Business Case for DSLs

I mentioned labor dollars, but the reality of DSLs isn’t necessarily in the labor savings. It’s in the ability to change prices more frequently. No, I don’t mean dynamic pricing, but I’ll talk about that below. Most retailers – especially grocers – have an upper limit to how often they can change prices, because doing so requires sending a person to every shelf for every item where the price has changed. If you throw too many price changes at a store, you risk blowing your labor budget, reducing the service provided to customers, or very low compliance with the changes because stores just can’t keep up.

When prices are not executed according to the retailer’s price strategy, then inventory can pile up because it’s not selling as well as the forecast, revenue targets get missed, and in the cases where a promoted price stays up too long, retailers can risk stocking out and losing margin they didn’t intend to give away.

On the flip side, brick and mortar stores face more agile competitors online, who can change prices intra-day without a lot of consumers noticing (the price you see on the web is not “the price”, it’s “your price” – because you’re the only one who can see what they’re serving up to your unique screen at that unique moment, and most retailers who are sophisticated enough to do that, can monitor that offered price all the way through to checkout even if in the meantime they’re showing different prices to other consumers). And they can even localize those prices if they know where a consumer is coming from. It’s not Walmart competing with Amazon, it’s every single Walmart store competing not only with Amazon but also with every other store in a 5+ mile radius.

Retailers have long complained about this lopsided competitive market, and looked for ways to make stores more competitive. The best they’ve come up with is price matching – show me the price you can get and I will match it. DSL’s will enable more finer-grained competition and at least day-to-day responses to online competition.

There are a lot of consumer benefits, too. With DSL’s, you don’t have to stand there squinting at a box, you can scan a QR code (something we’re much better trained to do these days) and get whatever information you want. Provided they can protect against hallucinations, retailers could even provide natural language interactions about products – is it gluten free? What do reviewers hate about this product? How does it compare to product Y? This product is out of stock, can you ship it to my house? Consumers increasingly expect digital experiences in stores. DSL’s provide that bridge between the physical item on the shelf and the world of rich data and insights on the web.

And, even though it may have its challenges if too many people try to use it at once, you could even use DSLs for product locating – flash the sign where, say, the sugar-free vanilla Torani pump bottles are.

Retailers, of course, can benefit from those interactions as well, by gaining much greater visibility to the products that consumers consider, and ultimately whether they buy them or not.

Dynamic Pricing Debacles, or, The Wendy’s Effect

Even in talking about the benefits of DSLs, I’ve already had to tread carefully around the topic of dynamic pricing. The reaction to Wendy’s announcing “dynamic menu boards” and foolishly talking about intra-day price changes was so severe, the company walked back the announcement. Walmart has been careful to emphasize that this is not about dynamic pricing, but about in-store efficiency and effectiveness.

So what’s the difference? At a Wendy’s, the total time of consideration of the item and the price together lasts pretty much only as long as the line you have to stand in to place your order. The entirety of a fast food restaurant trip is probably 30 minutes on a bad day, and the surface contact of item and price in the drive through is significantly shorter.

In grocery, not only does the average trip vary significantly by shopping objective, the goal is actually to make it last as long as possible. The longer you are in the store, the more your resistance to marketing messages and impulse buys goes down. A laser-focused, “I forgot the bananas” might last five minutes. A full-bore weekly replenishment trip might last 60 minutes. And unlike with online, retailers can’t track what you have in your cart while you’re walking in the store. If they change prices from one hour to the next, you could very well have a customer walk up thinking the price is low and get charged a higher price instead. This will lead to some nasty customer interactions, destruction of trust and loyalty, and could potentially even already violate consumer protection laws that are on the books today.

A general principle of dynamic pricing, especially in a brick and mortar setting, is that prices can temporarily go down, but they should never ever “temporarily” go up. This was Wendy’s mistake – their intent for the dynamic menu boards was to offer lower prices during slower times, to try to even out demand. This was coming off the heels of some restaurants announcing things like surcharges for dining out on Friday or Saturday nights, as a way to try to push off demand during times when post-pandemic surge demand was killing them. So, naturally, consumers’ reaction to Wendy’s was a very cynical “Oh, you’re going to charge me more because I’m hungry at time when the average consumer is always hungry? Thanks for nothing.”

In grocery, there have been experiments with dynamic pricing – and by this, I mean intra-day price changes. Metro, a grocery/hypermarket company in Germany, put a lot of effort into DSLs and using them for things like happy hour pricing and falling prices for rapidly expiring goods, like the last scoop of potato salad in the deli. Happy hour pricing isn’t that far off from the doorbuster pricing you see in department stores, especially around holidays. It basically says, for these specific hours, prices will be lower. If you don’t want a lot of arguments, you might unofficially extend that pricing for 20 minutes or so to make sure you capture everyone who might have had to wait in a line, but for the most part, consumers understand the rules and know they have to at least be in a line to check out before the time expires.

Walmart Was Not First to DSLs – And This Is Important

Which leads me to the last, and maybe second-most important bit about Walmart’s announcement. Other retailers (and Walmart can count themselves among them) have been testing out DSLs for a long time. Many have come and gone from industry consciousness, but two that have had staying power have been Kohl’s and HEB. Kohl’s has even figured out fashion DSLs with digital toppers on their apparel racks and mini DSLs looped into shoes on display in their shoe department. HEB is, of course, one of the scrappier and more innovative grocers out there.

Walmart didn’t come to DSLs in the same way that they came to barcodes or RFID. They didn’t mandate that suppliers provide all the information to feed a DSL deployment, and they’ve waited a long time since the business case for DSLs has been proven out before they rolled it out to their stores. They were more careful here. And, as with RFID, if they had moved early, they could’ve disrupted DSLs in absolutely the wrong way. So it’s possible that Walmart’s waiting game paid off, and maybe even reflects some lessons learned.

It could also be that Walmart missed it. Barcodes and RFID were things that required supplier participation. DSLs do not. And that means the full cost of implementation falls directly to Walmart. Now we’re talking about not just a business case, but a full-on capital outlay. It’s no coincidence that it’s going to take two years to roll this out to 2,300 stores. It’s a great estimation interview question akin to how many manhole covers are there in Manhattan – how many DSLs will be needed to kit out an entire Walmart store? If they have 60,000 SKUs in just their grocery section, you’re talking 60,000 DSLs – per store – right there.

But here’s a bonus round consideration. How will DSLs fit in a Retail Media Network strategy? In order to charge suppliers for eyeballs in stores, you need screens. And the more screens you have, the more you can charge. And the more specific the screen is to your particular product, the more a retailer can charge you for something you already have – just like they charge for putting your “featured” product at the top of the search display online, now they can charge you to make your product’s DSL flash at consumers when they walk by, or feature a QR code that leads to the manufacturer’s site.

That doesn’t actually sound like a wonderful experience for shoppers, and that’s the unique tension inherent in RMNs that we’re now teetering into. But that’s a whole other article .

Nikki Baird

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VIDEO: Vacaville on Alert As Suspect Detained After Attempted Stabbing and Assault on Shop Heroic Employee

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The Vacaville community experienced a surge of police activity last Friday when a man, now identified as Steven Daniel Case, assaulted a local business employee at Shop Heroic Wholesale Outlet and was later detained by police. According to the Vacaville Police Department's social media update , the incident occurred just before 1 p.m. when the store manager called dispatch to report the attempted stabbing.

Authorities were informed that the suspect was shirtless, armed with a knife, and last seen near the intersection of Nut Tree and Elmira Rd. Vacaville Traffic Officers, already in the vicinity, responded promptly to the scene. They first confronted Case, who obeyed their orders but then suddenly moved his hands toward his waistband and advanced toward the officers. One officer, preempting a possible escalation, switched to his Taser and managed to subdue Case before he could cause further harm. During his detention, Case resisted and headbutted an officer, though fortunately, the officer was protected by a motorcycle helmet.

In a further development, the police revealed that earlier the same day, Case had also committed a robbery at a local Walmart and vandalized property by slashing tires. With a record of multiple arrests in recent months, officers have secured a bail enhancement against Case, ensuring he was not eligible for bail following this latest arrest.

The Vacaville Police Department expressed gratitude for the community's involvement, stating, "We are very thankful for all the different people who approached us to share what they’d witnessed today." Anyone with additional information about this case is encouraged to contact Officer Jeppson at 707.449.5208, while media inquiries can be directed to Lieutenant Lechuga at 707.449.5269.

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Want to Reach Walmart Customers? Apply for Retail Giant’s ‘Open Call’ Pitch Program

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Walmart has begun accepting applications for its  11th annual Open Call , inviting small business owners and entrepreneurs who’d like an opportunity to pitch their products.

The goal – putting a product on Walmart or Sam’s Club shelves or the stores’ websites,  and . 

Applications  are open until July 15.

Open Call, the company said in a news release, is central to  Walmart’s $350 billion commitment  to bolster U.S. manufacturing by sourcing shelf-ready products made, grown or assembled in the U.S.

Open Call will be held on Sept. 24-25, ahead of Manufacturing Month in October.

Since its launch in 2014, Open Call has provided thousands of small and medium-sized businesses with the chance to become Walmart suppliers and reach millions of new customers.

Last year, Walmart and Sam’s Club merchants heard over 1,000 pitches from more than 700 businesses from all 50 states.

Walmart hosted a Road to Open Call event at the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. During this event, select suppliers received “fast passes,” granting them direct invitations to Bentonville, Ark. to pitch their products.

Among the chosen suppliers from California were Cactus Foods in Los Angeles and Synear Foods in Chatsworth.

Walmart has 309 stores in California, employing 102,137 associates. Walmart also supports 343,848 supplier jobs, spending $32.4 billion with California suppliers in the 2024 fiscal year alone.

Entrepreneurs who secure a “golden ticket” — a deal for Walmart to sell their products in stores or online — can gain access to a vast customer base, enabling significant growth.

All Open Call entrepreneurs will participate in mentoring sessions with Walmart leaders and hear from special guests. Additionally, each entrepreneur will have a one-on-one pitch meeting with Walmart and/or Sam’s Club merchants.


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3 Lessons from The Washington Post’s Leadership Turmoil

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What to do when a new leader gets off to a controversial or rocky start.

The leadership questions surrounding new Washington Post CEO Will Lewis serve as a case study in the challenges of bringing in an outsider to lead an organization, highlighting the importance of transparency and alignment with company values. This article offers three lessons leaders can draw from it — as well as advice on how the Post and Lewis can move forward.

It’s never good for a newspaper when it becomes the story.

  • Adam Bryant is the senior managing director of the ExCo Group, an executive mentoring and leadership development firm. He is a coauthor, with Kevin Sharer, of The CEO Test: Master the Challenges That Make or Break All Leaders (Harvard Business Review Press, 2021) and the author of The Leap to Leader: How Ambitious Managers Make the Jump to Leadership (Harvard Business Review Press, 2023).

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