Walmart’s Social Commerce Shift Lowers Walls Between Physical, Digital Retail


Just as the busy fourth-quarter seasonal retail rush is set to kick off, the world’s largest operator or physical stores has made a major push to boost its digital connectivity via a five-pronged “test and learn” expansion of its social commerce platform.

It’s a move that not only marks the continuation of a shift that began for Walmart over a year ago, but also stands as the latest example of creeping change that is flowing throughout the biggest players in the industry, all of whom are looking to build a seamless superhighway between high-traffic social media and high-inventory physical stores.

“This is not just television shopping 2.0. What this actually is doing is redefining shopping and providing an online shopping experience that’s worth talking about,” Bryan Moore, co-founder and CEO of TalkShopLive — one of five innovation partners hand-picked by Walmart — said in an interview with PYMNTS.

Whether it’s TalkShopLive, TikTok, Snapchat, Firework or Roku, this shift to social is deeply rooted in connectivity and experiences that engage consumers, inspire them to be a part of something bigger and ultimately get them to buy — either in the moment online, or later on in-store after a digital inspiration.

“When we’re in times like this, one of the great powers that livestream shopping has to offer is that in addition to purchasing the product, you’re providing an experience,” Moore said, not only highlighting the challenging economy and consumer climate, but also pointing to the “Oprah Book Club-style” moments that turned a basic purchase into something entirely more buzz-worthy and fun.

“When Walmart’s brands get involved in the shows, they’re creating these dynamic brand experiences,” he added, noting his company’s embedded, transportable buying platform that allows brands to sell wherever they like and not force shoppers to link out to become buyers.

Tip of the Iceberg

According to PYMNTS data, as well as Walmart’s own research and results, social commerce is slated to grow from 10% of its digital sales to 17% of eCommerce by 2025, at the hands — and thumbs — of Gen Z and millennial consumers, which Walmart said account for nearly two-thirds of the world’s 2 billion social media users.

That said, PYMNTS recently reported that a staggering 60% of consumers reported experiencing some sort of pinch point or frustration during the last social commerce checkout experience, a finding that shows both the challenges and opportunities for improvement that exists within this important retail niche.

“For us, social commerce is about driving customer engagement and shortening the distance between inspiration and purchase by removing friction from the checkout experience,” Molly Blakeman, senior director, communications at Walmart said in an email to PYMNTS.

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While calling the uptake in social a foundational component of the retail giant’s marketing strategy, Blakeman told PYMNTS the digital shift is also about driving customer engagement and shortening the distance between inspiration and purchase by removing friction from the checkout experience.

“We’ve been ultra-focused on creating social commerce experiences that resonate with our customers,” she added, “[and] we’re continuing to test, pilot and optimize new ways to reach our customers and help them save time, save money, and make their lives a little better.”

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