The American retail behemoth is redoubling its ecommerce strategy with Store No. 8, an in-house incubator for tech start-ups and partnerships.
Store No. 8, which will be located in Silicon Valley, is the latest manoeuvre in Walmart’s plan to bolster its competitive position in the online retail space. In 2016 it acquired ecommerce site Jet.com for $3.3 billion. As Jet has yet to succeed in posing a real challenge to Amazon, as Walmart had hoped, the effort to attract more online shoppers carries on – both through acquisition and innovation.
In this regard, Marc Lore, President and CEO of US Ecommerce for Walmart, has taken the reins. He was the founder and CEO of Jet, and since that acquisition, has championed a sales strategy for Walmart which combines online and in-store shopping.
Similar to the internal venture arms of many big companies, Store No. 8 will identify emerging technologies that could give Walmart business advantages. But as the New York Times explains, “rather than simply taking stakes in existing ventures, the new division is intended to help create new start-ups.” It will be a separate entity, structured to quickly deliver technologies for development and use across Wal-Mart.
Store No. 8 will actively seek to form relationships with entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and academics in the fields of ecommerce and a number of emerging technologies such as robotics, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, autonomous driving and drone delivery, aimed at transforming the retail experience.
“We knew we needed to keep investing in the future of retail”, said Seth Beal, Walmart’s Senior VP of Incubation and Strategic Partnerships and a Principal of Store No. 8. “We’re making sure that we make the right short-term decisions but don’t neglect the long term.” Beal has been with Walmart since 2013 and previously held the roles of SVP, Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer for Walmart Ecommerce and Leverage, and SVP, Global Marketplace and Digital Store Operations.
Beal will be joined as a Principal of Store No. 8 by Katie Finnegan, VP of Incubation for Walmart Global Ecommerce. Finnegan was previously a Senior Director with Jet, in charge of corporate development.
“When the mother ship is ready, we’re sort of ahead of the eight ball”, said Finnegan. “Our goal is to have whatever we work on integrated into the mother ship.” As Finnegan explains, Store No. 8 will be able to draw on Walmart’s resources to support the start-ups it launches. “We’re giving these portfolio companies the best chance for success”, she said.