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Walmart.com is anything but basic. The retailer is perhaps best known for their sprawling stores across the US, a one-stop shop for everything you could ever need. Denise Incandela, Head of Fashion for Walmart.com sat down with Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reporter Sarah Nassauer to talk about her team’s efforts to expand beyond the realm of basics and establish Walmart as a fashion destination as well as a catch-all for your day to day needs. By overhauling their digital channels to create a more editorial and explorative customer experience, the team at Walmart develops a customer acquisition strategy fueled by testing new brands and partners.
Incandela joined Walmart two years ago with the goal of overhauling their website customer experience to accommodate an expanded range of fashion offering, as well as inspire their shoppers to explore new trends. She describes the fast-paced nature of the project as “playing offense,” expanding Walmart’s assortment through collaborations with notable celebrities like Ellen Degeneres and Sofia Vergara. Alongside this expansion, their team has overhauled the digital customer experience to feature an authoritative editorial voice, providing shoppers with channels to explore new trends and larger, more detailed images to showcase the products.
Walmart’s most notable competition in this space is Amazon, who has also made strides in offering a wider range of fashion brands. Incandela noted the advantages of Walmart’s ability to expand on an already popular and extensive assortment offered in store with the seemingly limitless “real estate” of their website. The Walmart customer is looking for more than just value, commented Incandela, and with Walmart they can access a broad range of price points and premium products. Walmart’s aim with elevating their customer experience is to get the current customer to shop there as a fashion destination, while enticing new customers with their expanded assortment and notable partnerships.
As just one of the five verticals of products that Walmart offers, fashion offers healthy profit margins for the business to pursue. Incandela’s work in shifting their digital aesthetic for a more editorial point of view features the product as the hero, elevating the customer experience. By providing their customers with inspiration and trends as well as the products, they hope to reinforce Walmart.com as a destination for fashion brands as well as basics. By elevating the digital customer experience, Walmart also caters to their brands and partners in making sure their products are easy to find and properly displayed.
While Walmart’s celebrity partnerships like that with Ellen Degeneres and Sofia Vergara maintain the brand’s commitment to creating and maintaining their fashion vertical, they have also set their sights on acquiring outside brands to bolster their assortment. Walmart recently acquired intimate and swim brand Bare Necessities. These acquisitions, according to Incandela, help Walmart accelerate their growth in each of these sub-categories. Intimates, for instance, can be a difficult category for larger retailers to grow; Walmart’s investment in Bare Necessities is aimed at providing their customers with the same premium quality at a reliable price point.
Incandela describes her position as the opportunity of a lifetime, transforming an already established large retailer into a fashion destination. She describes the brand as “customer-obsessed,” aiming to provide the best possible customer experience online and in-store for returning customers as well as new customers. In addition to their commitment to customer retention, Walmart’s aim with expanding their assortment online is to keep their partner brands happy and create a space where their products can shine. Walmart featured over 550 new brands online in the last year alone. Their previous partnership with Lord and Taylor brought 150 new brands to the website overnight. Their ultimate goal is to add and test more premium brands and models like subscription, listening to their customers’ requests as well as targeting new acquisitions.
When asked about what success means to her, Incandela called back to her customers. Improving Walmart.com’s repeat shopping rate, acquiring new customers, and continuing to build out the fashion assortment are at the top of her list. She noted the transformative and invigorating nature of her work, to be a part of a big company “investing and taking an assertive position in digital.” The transition from brick and mortar retail to the seemingly limitless expanse of the digital landscape allows Walmart to continue to cater to an established and growing customer base while exploring new channels of retail and partnership.
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