Walmart + home screen on laptop in Brooklyn, NY, Wednesday, November 18, 2020.
Gabby Jones | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Ahead of the holidays, Walmart is adding another tool to its arsenal to boost online sales: over 30 live streams, including one with musician Jason Derulo, which kicks off Cyber Week.
Over the past year, the retail giant has tested shopping events on various social media platforms. He hosted his first live broadcast last December when he had a holiday shop. He brought in influencers to host a spring beauty event on TikTok. Celebrity chef Ree Drummond talked about his Pioneer Woman line of cookware and more on Facebook. So far, 15 events have been held.
CMO William White said live streaming will become a more important part of Walmart’s digital strategy.
“If you think about the number of live broadcasts that we will do, the number of our social commerce partners, we are really scaling up at this stage,” he said in an interview with CNBC. He said the retailer will increase the frequency, but does not mean a set amount on a weekly or monthly basis.
White, a graduate of major rival Target, said he sees events as a way to strengthen the Walmart brand, forge an emotional connection with shoppers and “close the distance between inspiration and purchase.”
He declined to release sales figures, but said Walmart sees strong conversions, watch times, and social media followers with every event.
For Walmart, this strategy could help drive e-commerce sales. The retailer’s digital sales accelerated during the pandemic, but that growth rate has slowed significantly as more shoppers returned to stores. US e-commerce sales grew 79% in the fiscal year ending January 31.
In the last quarter, these growth rates fell short of expectations. According to Refinitiv, Walmart’s U.S. sales in the third quarter were up 8% year-on-year, compared with estimates of 20.5%. This is slightly higher than the 6% growth rate in the second quarter.
However, the growth of e-commerce in the US has been significant in two years. This 8% growth in the third quarter beats the 79% growth in the same period last year. However, e-commerce has yet to become a lucrative business for the retailer and is competing for sales with digital giant Amazon.
This is one of the factors affecting Walmart stock. Shares are down about 1% this year as of the end of Friday, compared with the S&P 500’s 31% rise this year.
Live streaming has become a sales driver for retailers in China, where it has been popularized by Alibaba. In the US, however, retailers ranging from Macy’s-owned Bloomingdale’s to Petco have tried to crack the code and turn events into a more meaningful part of their business. Amazon has a constantly updated list of QVC-like live events on its website at almost any time of the day.
According to research group Coresight Research, the market for live streaming in the US last year was about $ 6 billion. The market is expected to eclipse $ 25 billion by 2023.
Those numbers are vastly ahead of China, where live sales were around $ 125 billion in 2020, up from $ 63 billion in 2019, according to Coresight data.
Consumers who watch live Walmart events can learn more about eyeshadow, sweater or toy and quickly add them to their virtual shopping cart.
White said Walmart is looking for other ways to speed up checkout, such as reducing the number of clicks it takes when someone sees an item they like while scrolling through a social media app.
“When people are on their social media and in the digital environment in which they live, inspiration can come at any time,” he said. “We want to make it easy for them to shop.”
Walmart has taken other steps to make online purchases faster. He merged two of his apps into one. it signed a deal with Meredith media company in September to make more ads and content available for purchase. For example, if a consumer sees an attractive recipe on AllRecipes.com, they can click to add all the ingredients to the virtual grocery cart.
The Walmart event, hosted by Derulo, will be the first live Twitter feed. The approximately 30-minute show will start at 7:00 pm ET on Sunday and will focus on gifts across all categories, from apparel and seasonal décor to electronics. Walmart said it will also include special surprise guests.
To drive sales, Walmart is expanding its third-party marketplace, offering faster home delivery for online purchases and making restocking easier through roadside pickup. CFO Brett Biggs told CNBC that the company added 21 million products to its third-party market in the third quarter. It also has a Walmart + subscription service that offers perks such as fuel discounts and free home delivery with no minimum purchase.
– CNBC Lauren Thomas and Annie Palmer contributed to this report.