The Pandemic’s Impact on the Walmart Shopper

National Retail Federation | January 12, 2021

Ira Kalish, Deloitte’s chief global economist, and Janey Whiteside, chief customer officer at Walmart, discussed the effects of the continuing pandemic on consumer behavior, retailers and the overall economy.

Deloitte’s point of view is that the economy will grow slowly in 2021, and that there will continue to be disruption in the consumer market. Looking at Walmart, “We saw five years of projected growth in pickup and delivery in five weeks,” she said. We saw an almost weekly change in product demand as the pandemic took hold, from disinfectant to board games to home schooling equipment to sewing machines to garden and household improvement materials.

Whiteside spoke to the breadth of Walmart’s offerings — groceries, pharmacy, financial services — enable it to collect a great deal of data about its customers. “We can use all that data,” she said, “to understand our customers better, and to serve them better. To do that, we need to have all the right permissions. It’s a matter of trust and we have to earn that trust.”

Kalish brought up the issue of balancing online shopping and being essentially a store-based company. Whiteside said, to retain relevance it leverages the stores. “We can fulfill that order from a store,” she said. “We can’t fulfill it from an ecommerce shipping facility. Stores aren’t going anywhere.”

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