NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Wal-Mart Stores (WMT - Get Report) is betting that online sales will fuel the next wave of significant growth for the world's largest retailer as it more directly competes against Amazon (AMZN - Get Report) and Google (GOOG - Get Report).
"E-commerce is the next growth engine for Walmart," Neil Ashe, president and CEO of Walmart's global e-commerce division, said Wednesday at a New York investor conference. "We view this as an opportunity for us to grow pretty dramatically."
Emphasizing the company's plans to grow its digital sales, Ashe spoke at Barclays' Retail and Consumer Discretionary Conference in New York City.
Wal-Mart is scheduled to announce its fiscal first-quarter earnings on May 16. Shares gained 1.4% to close at $46.40 to extend their advance this year to 33%."Our opportunity is not to become a multi-channel commerce, but rather to be that company that satisfies the customer when, where and how she wants to be served," Ashe said. "The path we were on wasn't going to get us there." Ashe was hired in January 2012 by the Bentonville, Ark.-based company to run the giant retailer's online strategy, which includes both the U.S. and international operations. Ashe was previously president of CBS (CBS) Interactive. He was CEO of CNET Networks and led the sale of the company when it was acquired by CBS in 2008. Walmart has forecast $9 billion in global e-commerce sales for its current 2014 fiscal year. (Previously, the company didn't break out online sales.) The company's overall revenue for its fiscal 2013 year, which ended in January was just under $470 billion.
The global retailer trails online giant Amazon. Walmart is allocating significant resources and investment to its global technology platform, which includes online fulfillment centers as well as the ability to scale the services in all of its markets. "The business model for e-commerce -- the financial model will be faster growth, slightly lower margins and obviously lower investment, but that doesn't mean no investment," Ashe said.