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Wal-Mart Seeks More Sales on Digital Platforms

"Retail is a Lego business," he said. "The capital is about new units and new units drive growth. We don't need new units, but we do need a constant investment in technology."

Walmart's efforts to build out its e-commerce platform include the acquisition of small Internet specialty companies and expanding markets such as China and Brazil. Walmart owns a majority stake in Chinese Internet retailer Yihaodian.

Walmart is about to roll out a new homepage for Walmart.com, which is expected either today or Thursday. Changes to the homepage include more prominent functions such as search engine, what's trending and finally where to find the nearest store, Ashe noted.

Since half of Walmart customers own smartphones, it also means using so-called big data, social media sites Facebook (FB - Get Report), Twitter and Pinterest and mobile platforms to figure out consumers' interests, which will be reflected in merchandise assortment, Ashe said.

Walmart's focus on its e-commerce strategy not only allows the retailer to reach customers who don't have stores nearby, but, more importantly, the online customer is a "significantly better" customer than one that only shops at a store.


"We're seeing significant growth in customers that don't shop currently at our stores," Ashe said.

Another service that Walmart is experimenting with is the ship-to-store phenomenon at select stores, in which customers can place an order online, but make the actual purchase in-store. Ashe said this method works particularly well for the customer who prefers to pay in cash and avoid shipping charges. And of course, it gets the customer into the store.

Other retailers are also experimenting with merging online with bricks-and-mortar stores, Gap (GPS) announced last month at its annual investor day that it was expanding its offerings to include "ship-from-store, find-in-store and reserve-in-store."

Walmart changed its store sales policies to allow for revenue credit of e-commerce sales in a store's geographic trading area, which has already had a sizable impact, Ashe said.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

To contact Laurie Kulikowski, send an email to: Laurie.Kulikowski@thestreet.com.

>To submit a news tip, email: tips@thestreet.com.

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Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.
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