Although Walmart is still the big dog in retail — its $500 billion in sales in 2017 was more than triple that of Amazon — the retailer is in a battle with an increasing number of rivals, most notably Amazon and Target.
They’ve done some really cool things, from improved store maps to roving cashiers to offering free 2-day shipping on certain items — but is it enough? Is there room for more?
Walmart’s making progress, but here are 10 resolutions they need to make in 2019:
1. Allow coupons and Ibotta rebates with Grocery Pickup.
Walmart Grocery Pickup and Delivery is free (unlike plenty of other stores’ similar services), but it doesn’t allow for coupons or Ibotta rebates — and that’s sad. They need to find a way to make this doable, to make Pickup viable for couponers.
Other tweaks to Grocery Pickup include dealing with complaints about the system’s flexibility — particularly in rescheduling pickup times — and overall concerns about wait times (I waited 30 minutes for my order last time I did Pickup) and customer service.
2. Make the ship-to-store Pickup experience better for customers — like, a lot better.
Walmart’s Pickup service is awesome because it allows site-to-store delivery with no shipping costs. But getting your goods is not a consistent process.
Different Walmart locations have different mechanisms for Pickup. Some require you to log in on a giant touchscreen before spending your afternoon in an obnoxiously orange waiting room, while others have convenient Amazon-style lockers that allow you to retrieve items without personnel.
I’ve done it both ways. The former is awful; the latter is fantastic. Walmart needs to streamline the process so customers can quickly get their stuff and leave, rather than waiting around for 55 minutes to get one freaking board game.
3. Take advantage of malls’ demise and bring in more brands.
Walmart turned a lot of heads this holiday season when it unveiled store-based Build-A-Bear locations. As malls continue to decline in sales and foot traffic, Walmart has an opportunity to embrace beloved brands and become the “new mall.”
They just have to make sure they use their market power to keep prices low. We’d love to see little pop-up shops of mall stores like PacSun, Claire’s and Crocs.
4. Make the different departments work together (and bundle services?).
Imagine if, while you’re getting your oil changed at the Tire & Lube, the Grocery Pickup team is filling your trunk, and upon checkout, the cashier hands you your prescription and photo order. That kind of convenience requires a fair amount of logistical finesse, but if anyone can do it, Walmart can.
This would be a game-changer on many levels. Even more seismic would be the as-yet-unavailable option of bundling these services to save money.
5. More crossovers between Walmart and Sam’s Club.
You knew Walmart owns Sam’s Club, right? K, good. But there’s not a lot of synergy between them. While not every region of the U.S. has a Sam’s Club, they pretty much all have a Walmart — so why not capitalize on the best parts of their warehouse experience?
I’m talking about a few legit buy-in-bulk deals, free samples throughout the store (eat that, Costco!), and tire sales that put the ones offered by the Walmart Auto Center to shame. And maybe there’s even some extra savings or incentives at Walmart for Sam’s Club members.
6. Walmart Pay needs to be open to other digital payment options.
Walmart seems to be shoving its Walmart Pay functionality (built into their app) down our throats. They’ve even gone so far as to hijack its Savings Catcher price-matching widget to force people to use it.
You can set up a debit or credit card to activate Walmart Pay, but in a world where Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, PayPal and Google Wallet are widespread, Walmart is embarrassingly lacking in its options for payment.
And for freak’s sake, take those Walmart Pay-only limitations off Savings Catcher!
7. Scrap the dumb JetBlack idea and actually set something up to compete with Amazon Prime Now.
While it’s awesome that Walmart now has same-day delivery for groceries, if they really want to stick it to Amazon, they’re going to need to be able to deliver various non-grocery products across town, same-day.
Walmart’s bougy $50/month JetBlack service isn’t the answer. Currently operating in Manhattan only, it’s built as a high-end concierge service that isn’t as flexible and accessible as Prime Now.
8. Surprise us with some really cool new features — like smart shopping carts.
Walmart is known to file a bunch of patents, and although many of them don’t turn into actual innovations, they’re worth paying attention to!
They’ve filed patents for “smart” (self-driving/navigating?) shopping carts, wearable tracking devices (for employees maybe?), in-store inventory trackers, in-store drone assistance and self-driving delivery trucks.
Roll some of that out in 2019 to keep us interested. And keep making those app-based store maps better.
9. Make the shopping experience that. much. better. . . with samples, childcare and freebies.
Walmart doesn’t have to bust out the latest tech to get our attention, though. Simple things like adding free childcare (like Kroger stores and IKEA already do), samples galore, ample freebies and rethinking the checkout line process (make it fun!) could be important tweaks in the new year.
Still would love to experience the mobile cashiers, too.
10. Keep beefing up Walmart.com with new brands.
Walmart has done a great job diversifying its online offerings, from Moosejaw outdoor goods to lingerie seller Bare Necessities to Shoes.com and Art.com.
They look to keep beefing up their online “mall” into 2019, and that will result in additional purchases. All signs point to niche brand purchases — eyeglass maker Warby Parker is a favorite — or buying established market leaders like ULTA.
Perhaps they’ll consider making a play for brands looking for a comeback, like Toys”R”Us.
They should continue making the customer experience seamless between site and store, like when Walmart said it would accept online returns in physical stores. More of that, Walmart?
What do you think? What resolutions should Walmart make in 2019?