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Digital Lessons Learned from Crate and Barrel and Walmart

The path to growth in retail, more than ever depends on effective digital strategies. This past year has changed retail forever, with digital and ecommerce expansion at the forefront. This rapid acceleration has shown there are many ways in which digital growth strategies are manifesting across retail, and the strategic priorities of leading retailers.

We were honored to host executives from Crate and Barrel, Walmart and Vorys eControl for a webinar on digital growth strategies. In collaboration with the Chicagoland Retail Network, our panelists shared their experiences across a range of trendy digital retail topics, including online marketplaces, curbside pickup and eControl.

Sarah Casalan Bittle, VP of Stores with Crate and Barrel, shared how their customer-centric strategy and execution took on a renewed purpose during the pandemic, as their stores balanced the safety of customers and sales associates with a compelling customer experience. They achieved their goal of increasing the capacity of their already industry-leading curbside pickup, through a concerted effort across their organization. This effort included significant investment in training, eLearning, and critically, an acceptance by their staff to embrace new processes and digital tools. Examples include taking as many processes “tethered” to their store POS and move them to mobile-based solutions. An “unexpected positive outcome” of their rapid deployment of enhanced omnichannel capabilities was their ability to “smash through” cultural constraints related to digital adoption – a barrier cited by almost all retailers to consistently execute at a high level.

We see breakthroughs in these types of deep-rooted cultural constraints as a huge win for best practice retailers, and a primary reason they will separate themselves from “average” omnichannel retailers. For Crate and Barrel customers, this means a better experience, as a motivated staff works seamlessly to anticipate and deliver this experience.

Our second speaker, Ricardo Escalante, is Senior Program Manager in Walmart International’s cross-border marketplace team. He provided a glimpse into the world’s biggest retailer’s digital growth strategies within the fast-growing online marketplace sector. Marketplaces are capturing a greater share of the total retail market, in the US and globally, and the addition of cross-border ecommerce further enhances growth opportunities. Ricardo’s work in the Canadian market, assisting US-based brands and retailers to become Seller Partners on Walmart Canada’s marketplace, is highlighted by their Ship With Walmart program. This program enables companies to leverage Walmart’s negotiated rates for shipping across borders, and includes services such as handling of customs, duties and product harmonization for cross-border ecommerce transactions. Category-specific opportunities are plentiful in this relatively early stage of cross-border growth for Walmart Canada, and the rush by brands and retailers to expand their geographic reach via marketplaces appears well timed on Walmart’s part. Ricardo also talked about the opening of more cross-border trade lanes, including opportunities in Latin America.

We applaud Walmart’s relatively under-the-radar expansion of their online marketplace properties, and decisions they have made to remove friction for retailers and brands who want to extend their reach into new markets. Walmart is raising the bar for marketplace operators to provide programs that enable Seller Partners to take advantage of Walmart’s best-in-class omnichannel infrastructure through their stores, their biggest differentiator among the largest digital retailers.

Our third panelist, Daren Garcia, Partner at Vorys eControl provided a key counterbalance to the conversation with online marketplaces. Their law firm represents brands that sell on marketplaces and ensures the “intentionality” of these companies is clearly managed. This ensures brand and price controls are in place, and that unauthorized or “rogue” marketplace sellers are not allowed to erode brand equity. Daren, who leads Vorys eControl’s international expansion, went on to explain key differences in European markets, and how strategies such as Selective Distribution are being embraced by all types of companies. He emphasized this is a “must have for brands to enjoy profitable growth” in marketplace channels.

An on-demand recording of the webinar is available for those who would like to hear more details of this fabulous panel. To view the recording, please register for the event here and you will receive a link via email. Thanks to our speakers and partners, and we look forward to more conversations on trending retail topics.

Jim Okamura

Jim Okamura leads the digital practice at McMillanDoolittle. Jim has over 25 years of retail strategy consulting experience, focused on digital retail transformation. His work in organization design and international ecommerce strategies has resulted in industry-leading thinking on retailer best practices and strategic planning.

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