Walmart Trying To Improve Its E-commerce Profile

While Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) is, for most, the personification of the brick-and-mortar retailer, the company has been making plans to change that perception, and in the process, redefine the relationship between shopping on the internet and shopping in the store.  Wal-Mart, as most physical retailers, are facing the growing frustration of feeling like a “showroom” for products that people will simply then purchase on line at sites like Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) – who even has a price-checking app that will allow you to simply go ahead and order the item from your smartphone.  This new initiative became more pronounced a year ago, when the retail giant purchased tech company Kosmix, located in San Bruni, CA, to the south of San Francisco (Wal-Mart, as always, is based in Bentonville, AR).

In a recent interview with All Things D, Wal-Mart’s senior vice president of global e-commerce Anand Rajaraman described many of the innovations and experiments his division has been trying out during the last few months.  Allowed something of a free reign in which to try new approaches, Rajaraman and his group have launched some truly surprising ideas, one of which is Shopycat.  Shopycat is a Facebook app that recommends gifts based on a friend’s particular interest – even if that gift wasn’t necessarily available at Wal-Mart.

Another idea is “Get on the Shelf,” located at GetOntheShelf.com, which gave a forum to small business owners to upload a video showcasing a product they invented.   The product will be voted on by visitors to the site, with the winners, as the name suggests, being given shelf space at Walmart stores to sell their product.

Heading into the future, Rajaraman and the rest of Wal-Mart’s e-commerce division sees trying to turn Wal-Mart’s current “showroom” dilemma into an advantage, by building a more synchronous relationship between e-commerce and brick-and-mortar traffic that will benefit both aspects of the retail relationship.  Whether he can prove successful in his goals, however, remains to be seen.