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Walmart to Bolster E-Commerce in Canada with Significant Investments Online and in Stores: Interview

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Retail giant Walmart Canada is planning to win in the ecommerce space by being agile, fast and customer-focused as the retailer continues to pivot and invest in technology for its omnichannel network.

Laurent Duray

“We’re going to continue providing a faster, easier and trusted shopping experience at our everyday low prices – plus access to an even richer selection of products. And we’re going to keep using the latest technology, from robotics to artificial intelligence, to get us there. Technology will continue improving our customer experience. As we deepen that customer relationship and knowledge, we want to be able to anticipate our customers’ needs and deliver their order in the most convenient way for them,” said Laurent Duray, SVP eCommerce, Walmart Canada.

“We see Walmart as a technology company and are making strides towards a future where our customers can have a more personalized, fast, and convenient experience unlike any other. The journey is just beginning.”

Duray said the company pivoted, adapted and invested in the early stages of the pandemic as more Canadians embraced the online shopping experience.

Image: Walmart Canada

“During the pandemic, 150 more Supercentres started offering online grocery pickup – a big increase. By the end of the year, we’re on track to have 99% of our Supercentres providing this service for our customers (about 350 Supercentres total).” Duray said service speeds are increasing too, with pickup now available in under four hours.

“We’re investing in our stores, our infrastructure and our people to best serve our customers in a rapidly changing retail environment. This is part of our major $3.5 billion investment we announced last summer to make the online and in-store shopping experience simpler, faster and more convenient for our customers,” he said.

“We’re using some of our stores differently today too, carving out space where we can fulfil online orders for pickup or delivery. For example, some locations feature a store-within-a-store in the back room, where associates can quickly access the most popular online products to fill customers’ orders.

“Across the country, our fulfilment centres are also becoming more plentiful and more advanced to increase speed and efficiency. This allows customers to receive their online orders for delivery faster than ever.”

Interior of Walmart’s new fulfillment centre in Scarborough’s Walmart Supercentre. Photo: Walmart

In March, Walmart Canada announced it was accelerating its e-commerce business as construction started on its first fully-automated market fulfilment centre inside the Scarborough West Supercentre (1900 Eglinton Ave E.).

The retailer said the 22,000-square-foot space will automate online grocery picking and dispensing with picking speeds up to six-times faster than manual store picking and the new space will also feature a first for a big grocery retailer in Canada: automated kiosks that serve as vending machines for online grocery orders and can serve up to five customers simultaneously.

The company said customers will be able to drive up to a dedicated parking spot, enter a code and ordered items will appear in less than two minutes, ready to load into their cars. The new space, a partnership with intelligent automation provider, Dematic, will open in the near future.

The company also announced in March it was investing over $500 million this year in its store network, focusing on refurbishing and refreshing stores across the country and making it the largest ever yearly investment in store upgrades.

Duray said Walmart Canada initiatives are always about the customer.

Walmart Fastlane Photo: Walmart

The trend toward online shopping pushed the company to accelerate and pivot as an organization to free up capacity in the stores, to get more parking space allocated for online grocery, to allot more assortment and to make it faster and more convenient for customers.

“Customers want us to be in different channels. They love to be in our stores but they also love to be able to access all the store assortment and more through walmart.ca,” he says. “We’re investing in technology from the robotics to artificial intelligence to really help the customer experience. But also making the life for our associates a lot better. We’re investing in artificial intelligence to make sure it’s more personalized. We also invest in automation in our fulfillment centres. These are all the areas where technology plays a role from a customer facing to more of a back of face.

“We’re investing in technology but also in the people that goes with the technology. We still believe that people will make a big difference in how we operate and how we connect with our customers and how we make a difference. So it’s going to go both hand in hand. We’ve recruited a lot of people in the past so far and in our short future we’re also recruiting in different areas, making sure we meet customer expectations in regards to more assortment, faster delivery and pickup options, better prices and more convenience and ease to shop as well through our app or our web.

“It’s never been easier for the customer and the Canadian to shop online at Walmart and we’ll keep making that a lot better for our customers in the coming months. The customers will see a better version of Walmart in the coming future.”

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He now works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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