Fast Company Goes Inside Wal-Mart's E-commerce Strategy

Protests by labor, rowdy crowds and deaths aside, some are saying Wal-Mart "won" Black Friday this year.

But the bigger question is, can Wal-Mart "win" online? Especially when Amazon -- a company that behaves as if profits don't matter -- is often thought of as the go-to online retailer.

This week, tech writer Farhad Manjoo takes a look at Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s growing e-commerce arm and how the world's largest retailer plans to improve online sales by leveraging social media, mobile and other tools.

One thing Wal-Mart appears to have going for it: CEO Mike Duke, who's put e-commerce on equal footing with Wal-Mart's other divisions. That's led to Wal-Mart's acqusition of a host of web talent, including social media firm Kosmix (now called @WalmartLabs) and entrepreneurial experiments like food-subscription service "Goodies", launched earlier this month, and same-day delivery

All this, while Amazon slowly creeps into Wal-Mart's backyard. From Fast Company:

Having marginalized Barnes & Noble and Best Buy, Jeff Bezos has his eyes on a bigger target. Amazon has been moving aggressively to sell Walmart staples such as diapers, soap, pet food, and cereal, even letting customers subscribe for items they want to receive regularly. Walmart is the world's biggest grocer, and a central part of its strategy is that the millions of folks who visit its stores weekly to buy food will purchase a lot of other stuff. That's a key reason Walmart's 2011 revenue of $419 billion dwarfed Amazon's 2011 sales of $48 billion.

In e-commerce, however, Walmart is a distant challenger. The company has never broken out its Internet revenue, though in 2011, the analyst Internet Retailer estimated it to be $4.9 billion. In October, Walmart projected that global e-commerce would be $9 billion in the year ahead. Meanwhile, Amazon has been on a tear, with sales rocketing toward $100 billion annually in 2015. Analysts I spoke to believe Amazon has eaten into Walmart's sales of books, music, DVDs, electronics, and even toys.

The stakes are high for Wal-Mart and Amazon, as more of Wal-Mart's core customers conduct more business via online and mobile. As Manjoo notes, for Wal-Mart, it's become even more important than merely besting Amazon -- it's about meeting Wal-Mart customers where they're spending more and more time and money.

You can read the complete Fast Company story here.

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