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Walmart exec: Customers do not care about channels

LAS VEGAS ? A Walmart executive at the CTIA 2013: Mobile Marketplace conference said that the mobile industry encompasses a variety of channels, but consumers do not care about that. Marketers need to focus on creating frictionless experiences that accommodate consumers throughout their shopping endeavors ? no matter the channel they choose to use.

During the ?? keynote session, the executive talked about the ever-changing mobile space. The retailer has ramped up its mobile efforts over the past few years 

?One of our key focuses is to create the tools that make these devices much more useful in a customer?s daily lives and helps them save time and money while shopping,? said Gibu Thomas, global head of mobile at Walmart, Bentonville, AR. ?It?s about combining store systems, online systems and other forms of data.

?We?re changing the in-store experience as we know it today,? he said. ?To be clear, we know smartphones cannot replace people.

?However, we do believe a highly personalized experience and right information can redefine shopping.?

Changing customer experiences
According to Mr. Thomas, consumers are in control.

Retailers need to focus on their customers because at the end of the day, it all comes down to the way they shop and what is more convenient to them.

Mobile is key for marketers because of its unique capabilities of delivering this power of convenience in the hands of customers.

Ecommerce brought the store to the Web, but mobile brings the Web to the store, per Mr. Thomas.

And, this is incredibly disruptive.

Consumers do not have to choose how they want to shop ? whether it is via in-store, online or mobile.

Nowadays, consumers choose how they want to be served.

According to Mr. Thomas, Walmart customers are mobile and valuable.

More than 50 percent have smartphones.

Furthermore, mobile app users are more active in-store than non-app users.

Additionally, more than 30 percent of traffic is driven by mobile.

The retailer sees that customers who are embracing technology are some of the most loyal customers it has.

So how are smartphones helping?

They are combing the power of the in-store experience in a seamless way.

By 2016, smartphone mcommerce is forecasted to reach $27 billion or 8 percent of ecommerce sales.

Moreover, by 2016, ecommerce sales are set to reach $345 billion or 10 percent of total retail sales.

By then, mobile-influenced offline sales are expected to reach $689 billion, which is 20 percent of total retail.

?We want to create mobile tools that are indispensable to our customers,? Mr. Thomas said. ?While there are many advanced capabilities with mobile, the true power is appeal.

?We?re building innovative mobile tools such as shopping lists to create options for customers,? he said. 

Over the past year, Walmart has been finding new ways to make the overall shopping experience seamless for its customers.

Take its shopping list initiative, for example.

Walmart?s shopping list feature provides consumers with information that they cannot get with pen and paper.

Through the feature, consumers are able to see the price of the item automatically, see what aisle the product is in and their running basket total is generated as items are added to the list.

?And in the future, we want to think about how the shopping list can evolve,? Mr. Thomas said. ?We can recommend products in our stores and show you digital or manufactured coupons without you having to get them through the Sunday newspaper.

?By leveraging big data we?re using capabilities of what our customers are buying,? he said. ?The best shopping list is the one you don?t have to create and that?s what we?re working on.?