FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — At Walmart’s Associate and Shareholders Meeting here at the beginning of this month, president and chief executive officer Doug McMillon gave a nod to the company’s past while staying focused on its future and the drive to find new ways to grow and serve customers.
This year Walmart celebrated the 100th anniversary of company founder Sam Walton’s birth, and photos of Walton scrolled on the screen behind McMillon as the current CEO talked about the values and culture that have been foundational for the company.
Later McMillon took things one step further, introducing a three-dimensional virtual Sam Walton, who addressed the associates in the crowd and told them to keep their ideas flowing.
New ideas are key to Walmart’s success, McMillon said.
“Listen, we could choose to just be happy that we had a good run and keep doing things the same way,” he said. “But that’s not what I think Sam would’ve done. The purpose, values and culture he instilled in us are worth fighting for. The world is a better place with Walmart in it. The next generation needs this company.”
The embrace of change was built into the actual structure of the Friday meeting, which for the first time was billed exclusively as a celebration of associates and shareholders. The formal business portion of the event, which included the election of the company’s directors and votes on shareholder proposals, was held the day before.
McMillon highlighted some of the changes under way at the company, from enhanced associate educational opportunities to the investment in India’s Flipkart Group to tech-powered last-mile grocery delivery.
“Meaningful change is rarely easy, but it’s essential to set us up for success in the future,” he said, adding that Walmart is changing the role of its store associates as well, and that technology is automating some functions while creating new jobs, such as personal shoppers for grocery pickup and delivery and Training Academy facilitators, while also helping to accelerate training.
“From apps on our mobile devices to automation in the backroom, we’ll keep innovating to help you spend more time with customers and members,” McMillon explained. “We are developing new knowledge and new training. We are becoming lifelong learners.”
Other Walmart executives took the stage to reinforce the way Walmart is striving to reshape its business to meet the changing needs of its customers, while remaining true to its core mission.
Marc Lore, president and CEO of Walmart eCommerce U.S., argued that Walmart is making everyday life easier for busy families, by developing apps that its shoppers can use to return merchandise, pay for purchases or find where a product is located within a physical store.
The company has redesigned its website to offer online shoppers a more personalized experience, Lore said, and it has just introduced a new service called Jetblack that allows customers to order by text message and get same-day delivery. The service was launched in parts of New York City, and it is set to be rolled out to other markets.
“When a busy family orders something online, they expect to get it fast, in a way that works for their lives,” Lore said, detailing the range of options Walmart already offers, including in-store pickup, two-day delivery with no membership fee, and the ability to have online grocery orders delivered directly to the trunk of their car.
Walmart U.S. president and CEO Greg Foran also stressed the importance of innovation.
“We innovate to create better experiences for our associates and our customers,” Foran said, citing the example of a new system for unloading delivery trucks at the store, speeding the process for associates and improving the customer’s experience by reducing out-of-stocks.
“Walmart is that place where great innovation happens,” Foran said. “And when I think about innovation, I think about winning. And when it comes to winning, this is definitely that place.”