Entrepreneur

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon On How Stores Can Thrive Despite The Bleak Future Of Retail

If you’ve ever been to North America, chances are, you would have visited a Walmart outlet at some point of time.

To put it bluntly, they are the world’s largest company by revenue, beating the likes of Samsung, Apple, Toyota, and Volkswagen -just to name a few. And at the heart of the company lies a man who has spent his entire working life there.

From Unloading Walmart Trucks To Leading Their Boardroom

In a story that could only happen with a traditional brick-and-mortar retailer, CEO Doug McMillon started his career as a student taking on a summer job in one of Walmart’s distribution centers, and spent his days unloading goods off trucks.

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Upon graduation from university, he re-joined Walmart and set off on a career path which saw him become a buyer, merchandiser, store manager, and finally an executive, leading Sam’s Club and Walmart International.

He landed his biggest role in 2014, becoming Walmart’s CEO, and was essentially given a blank check to take on arch rivals Amazon.

While their e-commerce offerings still pale in comparison, they have been making great strides to transform the company for the challenges in the 21st century.

As someone who has led Walmart to become the world’s biggest company in terms of revenue, CEO Doug McMillon sure has some valuable insights on how retailers can survive the ever-changing future of the industry.

Here are his three predictions.

The Customer Will Be Front And Center

Ask any retailer and all of them will tell you that customer satisfaction is, and always will be, the number one priority – and it’s even more so in a future driven by technology.

E-commerce and mobile internet will empower consumers, leading them to have more control over their shopping experience, and giving them easy access to items round the clock.

Because of online shopping, we expect to save both time and money as the “historic trade-off between price and service has been altered by technology”.

Image Credit: Walmart

This means that daily necessities (groceries, household supplies) can be delivered in the easiest and cheapest way possible, while objects of desire (fashion, gadgets) can be further explored and experienced through technology such as virtual reality.

The advent of the internet-of-things (IOT) will also enable customers to experience “smart” shopping from literally anywhere – their homes, cars, devices, and even in physical stores.

Thus, it is important that retailers leverage on new technologies to not be left out. Usage of robots, drones, and self-driving vehicles for deliveries, and optimised software to further automate supply chains are all steps which must be taken at some point.

Lastly, transparency of not just pricing, but also the supply chain will always be under scrutiny by customers. The modern consumer will care even more about how their products are sourced.

This will in turn force retailers to work with manufacturers to source items responsibly and sustainably.

Bring All Your Offerings Along, To Anywhere You Expand To

This section applies to retailers seeking to expand beyond local shores to markets worldwide.

A common complaint from customers to renowned international retailers is “I’ve seen what you have, and I want it, too”.

Every major retailer and brand is guilty of this, making certain products and services market-specific, and it’s not just that either – customers now just expect more products to be made available in general, from all corners of the globe.

Costs aside, it’s actually possible today to ship any product from any country to anywhere in the world, with advancements in technology making logistics simpler.

A borderless global marketplace is a reality that retailers have to face eventually.

As acclaimed author Thomas Friedman wrote in his bestselling book on globalisation, “the world got flat and now it’s moving fast”.

The Business Must Bring A Shared Value To The Society

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On the topic of responsibility and sustainability, retailers are now expected to practice them as part of a wider community within society. Social and environmental sustainability will be the focus of communities at large, and are causes which will greatly appeal to customers.

This however is a process that retailers cannot handle alone, and will require cooperation with the government, NGOs, as well as educational institutions, to design retail businesses in a way that everyone benefits – customers, employees, shareholders, communities and those in the supply chain.

Environmental issues also weigh heavily as the increase in packaging waste and emissions come as a byproduct of the growth of e-commerce. With the increased demand in convenience, retailers must come up with new ways to manage shipments through methods that will not adversely affect the environment.

The traditional way of shipping one package at a time is not only wasteful and environmentally unsustainable, it is also not very cost-effective to the retailers.

Big Challenges With Opportunity To Innovate

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Doug McMillon feels that there is no doubt that these changes will likely pose big challenges for retailers, but with a belief that the industry is in a position to provide a better life for millions around the world, it also represents new-found opportunities to create jobs, and innovate on behalf of customers to be at the forefront of change.

The big idea for any retailer to take away from this is that there will need to be a shift in business practices if you are looking to survive and thrive in a world dominated by e-commerce.