Customers need Seamless Shopping Experience

Date:   Thursday , May 03, 2012

Over last five months Bentonville, Arkansas headquartered the world's largest retail company Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT) is aggressively focusing the India operations through building its global e-commerce unit Walmart Labs with a strong focus on social and digital technology. As a part of this move, it started its @WalmartLabs operation in Bangalore with the hiring of 100 additional developers. @WalmartLabs, a unit of Walmart Global e-Commerce creates platforms and products around social and mobile commerce. It works on creating innovative ways to connect with prospective customers. It intends to support Walmart's global strategy of anytime, anywhere access where millions of customers can discover, research and shop for products through mobile devices, online or at physical stores. Since its inception, @WalmartLabs has been actively scouting for acquisitions. In November, it acquired Grabble, a maker of point of sale technology that ties in with mobile phones. Now Jeremy King and Anand Rajaraman are on a hot seat pushing their team to get 100 skilled people to create a next-generation e-commerce platform. The new platform is designed to connect Walmart's digital and physical properties worldwide giving customers and suppliers a seamless way to interact and shop across any device or store anywhere in the world. The company is looking to recruit engineering talent in the areas of high scale computing, network infrastructure, systems administration and big data. In a candid conversation, Jeremy King, Senior Vice President & CTO of @WalmartLabs, shares his view on opportunities and challenges that the new wave of technology can bring in.

Emerging trends shaping the industry

I spent many years at eBay where we saw rapid changes in the technology landscape for e-commerce 1.0. Today, we are at e-Commerce 2.0 and the changes are coming faster and are more transformational than before. The advent of social and mobile and the over one billion people that are on the Internet today is resulting in fundamental changes to the way shoppers discover, research and purchase items. When you combine the Internet, mobile and social with retail, you have the next-generation of commerce, and that's where Walmart is focused currently.

New technologies that a CTO should bet on

Today, we are witnessing a transformation in the way people shop largely due to the proliferation of mobile and social. This is driving a fundamental change in customer shopping behavior. More and more every day, customers expect retailers to offer a seamless shopping experience across physical stores, online and mobile devices or "anytime, anywhere" access. With our global scale combined with our commitment to technology innovation -- for example the formation of @WalmartLabs and addition of key talent -- we are well positioned to succeed in the next-generation of e-commerce. Innovative activities @ Walmart Labs

Around the holidays, we announced our Shopycat product in the United States. Shopycat is a social gift finder that allows you to find the best gifts for your friend and family using Facebook. We have 150,000 installs of the product and the average user session today is at 5 minutes. It was higher over the holidays – as one might expect – to 15 minutes a session. In January, we announced our "Get on the Shelf" contestant where individuals and businesses could submit product entries for a chance to be sold at and in Walmart stores in the US. Videos are put up over Youtube and the American public votes on the products. More than 4,000 product entries were received. Over one million votes were cast in the first round of voting where 10 finalists were selected. The next round of voting will have three winners and ends on April 24.

Challenges that CTOs face Today

We believe the retailer that will win in the future will connect brick & mortar, ecommerce, mobile and social in a seamless way that makes it easy for customers to shop when, where and how they want. Our global scale combined with our commitment to technology innovation with @WalmartLabs and recent addition of key talents, positions us well for the next-generation of e-commerce. We’ll continue to focus on innovation within the mobile, social and retail space, and the development of our next-generation ecommerce platform.

(As told to Christo Jacob)

Jeremy King, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Global e-Commerce, @WalmartLabs has been on the forefront of cloud computing and brings over 20 years of experience building highly scalable technology platforms to support global commerce operations to his position. King is also an expert on engineering methodology and productivity, SaaS and presentation layer frameworks.

Since joining @WalmartLabs in 2011, King has led product, engineering, and web ops team members charged with developing Walmart's online business on a global scale as the company moves to the next generation of e-commerce. Prior to this, King spent three years at LiveOps as Executive Vice President of Technology where he guided Fortune 500 companies to migrate their services to the cloud, embrace crowd sourcing in the enterprise and adopt highly available and secure SaaS platforms. From 2001 to 2008, King was Vice President of Engineering and Software Development at eBay. During his tenure, he led the team that selected and implemented the next-generation application platform "V3," ran engineering teams for trading and fraud systems, launched eBay in seven new countries, opened development centers in China/India and was a key member of the PayPal integration team. Prior to eBay he was the founding engineering leader for and ran web technologies for Bay Networks.