Wal-Mart aims for online dominance

02 September 2009

BENTONVILLE, Arkansas: Wal-Mart is now selling almost one million products from other, smaller retailers on its main website, as the discount giant aims to transfer its offline dominance onto the worldwide web.

Consumers accessing the new Wal-Mart Marketplace can order goods from a wide range of sources, each of which has been carefully vetted by the Arkansas-based firm, which takes a share of all revenues generated via this route.

Kerry Cooper, cmo of Walmart.com, said the company has "added nearly one million new items to our online assortment with the introduction of Wal-Mart Marketplace, making it even easier for customers to find more of what they want when shopping Walmart.com."

"Working with select retailers, known for their strong customer service and large online assortments of new merchandise, gives our customer more reasons to choose Walmart.com when shopping online."

"Our vision is to make Walmart.com the most visited and valued online site," he added.

This strategy is seen as forming part of a broader shift among retailers to adopt similar approaches to those favoured by web pioneers like Amazon and eBay.

It also allows bricks-and-mortar chains to sell a vast array of products without being required to substantially enhance their own inventories, or handle and ship goods. 

Vendors using Wal-Mart's new system include eBags, which sells luggage, handbags and backpacks, CSN Stores, the home goods company, and Pro Team, the sportswear and merchandise specialist.

Burt Flickinger, managing director of the Strategic Research Group, the consultancy, argued "Wal-Mart is fully focused on winning against every key competitor on land and online."

He added that the web could be a key future growth area for the discounter, allowing it to target markets where it no longer has an official presence, such as in continental Europe and South Korea, and enhance its position in diverse product categories.

"Online is one key growth frontier Wal-Mart has yet to conquer ... This gives Wal-Mart a chance to close the widening gap with Amazon.com and Apple," said Flickinger.

Last year, Sears forged a partnership with the Whitney Automotive Group, which now sells some 130,000 spare car parts on Sears.com.

Procter & Gamble, the consumer goods titan, has also added links to the portals of various retailers to 80% of its US brand websites, and has announced plans to roll out this programme worldwide.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal/Associated Press; additional content by WARC staff