Spurred by changing shopping behavior during the COVID-19 outbreak, Walmart has accelerated the planned integration of its flagship mobile app and Walmart Grocery app.
Janey Whiteside, chief customer officer for Walmart, said in a blog post yesterday that the combined app is now live, providing a one-stop app experience for shoppers looking to purchase both consumables and general merchandise.
“In early March, we announced we were bringing the Walmart Grocery and Walmart App experiences together to make it easier for customers to shop everything from fresh groceries to apparel, electronics and more. This move also means that customers can use in-store services like Walmart Pay, Store Maps and Item Finder from one primary destination: the Walmart App,” Whiteside said. “As customers have begun using the new experience, we’ve been listening to them and engaging with their feedback. We’ve also been helping them transition to the new app, answering questions along the way.”
Initially, plans called for the updated Walmart app with grocery functionality to roll out in phases and for the Walmart Grocery app to be deactivated this summer. But booming online shopping activity during the coronavirus pandemic moved up that timetable. Walmart CEO Doug McMillon noted the upsurge this week in a conference call on first-quarter results.
“Before this crisis, we were already seeing robust adoption of online pickup and delivery. As this crisis created a need for social distancing and required people to stay at home, customers embraced pickup and delivery even more,” McMillon explained. “Pickup and delivery are attracting greater numbers of new customers. The number of new customers trying pickup and delivery has increased four times since mid-March. We expanded slot capacity as demand swelled, and we’ve increased the number of general merchandise items available to choose from.
“I think it’s time we stop referring to our Supercenter pickup and delivery and capability as online grocery, because it’s becoming much more than grocery,” he added. “Walmart.com also saw a surge in demand during the quarter as customers opted for greater convenience and increased social distancing. The U.S. eCommerce business grew 74% in total.”
The impact of COVID-19 also has brought another change in recent weeks: a surge in adoption of online and mobile shopping, according to Whiteside.
“In fact, leading mobile data and analytics platform App Annie recently noted that our Online Grocery app was No. 1 in the App Store as customers turned at an unprecedented pace to pickup and delivery services, which is why we think there is no better time than now to integrate our two apps and bring them an even better, more comprehensive experience. We don’t ask customers to make two trips to the store, one for groceries and one for all the other things they need, so we shouldn’t ask them to visit two apps,” she said.
Whiteside reported that 50% all online grocery orders are already coming via the integrated app. “And as customers have moved to the unified app experience, there’s been an uptick in those same customers ordering general merchandise items like toys and gardening tools as they shop for their grocery essentials,” she said.
Fiona Tan, head of technology for Walmart U.S. e-commerce and stores, noted that the app integration was a hefty undertaking amid the swings in demand triggered by the pandemic. The tech teams had to take a data-driven approach to monitor shopping behavior, incrementally build capabilities and launch “as we go,” she explained.
“Bringing two massive apps together — the Walmart App and the Walmart Grocery App — is no easy feat,” Tan said yesterday in a post on LinkedIn. “It takes strong alignment across business, product, design and engineering when evolving the customer experience at scale. It was especially vital in this case, given that while we were charging ahead to create a new experience, we still needed to keep the two stand-alone apps functioning and serving customers as we transitioned.”
In terms of features for the combined app, Walmart said it has added “hundreds of thousands” of new time slots for online grocery pickup; expanded notifications via app, email and text message to communicate pickup and delivery status; and enabled seniors, people with underlying medical conditions and first responders to reserve "at-risk only" time slots.
Shoppers, too, can use the app to reserve a no-contact pickup or delivery time, leverage the new two-hour Express Delivery service, refill prescriptions (including for curbside or drive-thru pickup or mail delivery), and make touch-free payments at any Walmart store checkout via the in-app Walmart Pay tool.
“The Walmart App is a great example of how all parts of the business rallied to create an easy to use online shopping solution,” commented Meng Chee, chief product officer at Walmart, a recently created position. “We walked in the shoes of our customers and selected their most pressing needs to solve for in days, not months. We launched contactless payment, Express Delivery, curbside pickup and thousands of new pickup slots, and at a time when our customers needed them most. This the beginning of our journey for the Walmart App.”