It’s been a little more than a year since Wal-Mart Stores Inc. closed its acquisition of Jet.com Inc. and named Jet CEO Marc Lore president and CEO of Walmart eCommerce U.S., and Lore still feels like he’s at a startup.
“We’re moving fast, we’re innovating, we’re having fun,” Lore said today at the Shop.org conference in Los Angeles. The retailer has embarked on a two-pronged acquisition strategy that, just this year, has included buying shoe retailer Shoebuy.com Inc., outdoor gear retailer Moosejaw, women’s apparel retailer ModCloth and high-end men’s apparel retailer Bonobos.
The Shoebuy and Moosejaw deals were aimed at helping Walmart quickly expand into product categories in which it had little expertise, while the ModCloth and Bonobos acquisitions were aimed at giving Walmart exclusive access to well-established, digitally native and vertically integrated brands, he said.
At the same time, Walmart has launched a number of experiments, including one in which it lets store employees opt in to deliver online orders for extra pay. Another pilot program, announced last week, involves the use of a one-time passcode to deliver groceries to a consumer and even place perishables in her refrigerator or freezer, all while the customer is not home.
“Hundreds” of people are testing the not-home delivery service in Silicon Valley, which Lore acknowledged “sounds crazy,” before he noted that Airbnb—the service that lets consumers rent their homes to strangers—also sounded crazy when it launched.
Walmart’s experimental push is aimed at helping the retailer figure out the best ways to serve consumers. “Some people will use our same-day delivery services to save time, other will look to save money,” Lore said. “We want to offer both.”
Lore aims to keep Walmart innovating, which is what led the retailer to launch Store No. 8, a Silicon Valley-based startup incubator that will “make bets” on virtual reality, delivery via autonomous vehicles and drones, and personalized shopping.
“It’s hard for big companies to innovate because they often have a number of competing interests,” he said. Because big companies aren’t innovating at the rapid clip of a startup, it can be difficult to attract talent looking for those types of challenges. For instance, earlier this year Walmart hired Rent the Runway co-founder Jennifer Fleiss to head a new company called code eight, which sprung out of Store No. 8.
Key to Walmart’s success will be its ability to successfully leverage technology such as virtual reality, which Lore believes will become common quicker than many expect. Virtual reality, in particular, could transform the way consumers shop, he said. “Imagine if you want to buy a tent that could use virtual reality to be immersed in it,” Lore said. “You could [virtually] walk around it, sit inside it. We’re not that far from that and that’s extraordinarily exciting.”
Walmart is also working on voice search technology, Lore noted. A Walmart spokesman says there are “a lot of new enhancements and capabilities we’re exploring” but does not have any specific details it can share.Favorite