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Redefining what change means at Walmart

Walmart chairman Rob Walton encouraged employees to “go for it,” and president and CEO Doug McMillon said the company would accelerate the pace of change during the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting June 6 in Fayetteville, Ark.
 
McMillion, presiding over his first shareholders’ meeting since being named CEO earlier this year, left an immediate stamp on the event. Event host Harry Connick Jr. introduced McMillon, who was surrounded by thousands of company employees in the upper deck of the Bud Walton arena on the campus of the University of Arkansas. After engaging in some witty banter with those seated near him, including removing an Alabama hat from a youngster — McMillion is an Arkansas alum — he took a selfie with an employee and then turned the meeting back to Connick.

It was significant change in meeting protocol, but it helped underscore the theme of a nearly three-and-a-half-hour event where the emphasis was on change and accelerating innovation while maintaining certain foundational principles. McMillon described how Walmart will lead with urgency to get ahead of change by focusing on three areas.

“First, we will be a customer-driven company. We've always said the customer is our boss and we'll make decisions based on how we can serve them better,” said McMillon. “Second, we will invest in our people. As we change and grow, it will be our associates who will make the difference. Finally, we need to be at the forefront of innovation and technology.”

Walmart envisions a future where it is uniquely positioned to win at the intersection of digital and physical. To do so, McMillon and other top executives described how the company is making acquisition and investments in its Global eCommerce organization and big data analytical capabilities even as it continues to expand its worldwide physical footprint.

“Customers will increasingly expect and require the best of both worlds. They want the excitement and the immediacy of shopping in a physical store and the freedom to shop whenever, however and wherever they want. They want an experience that seamlessly adapts to their life,” McMillon said. “Walmart can bring together our stores with new digital commerce capabilities to help customers save money, save time, and have access to what they want and need. Walmart will exceed their expectations.”
 
By some accounts the company is already doing so. Its e-commerce business is on track to grow to about $13 billion this year from $10 billion last year, but McMillion and Neil Ashe, president and CEO of Walmart Global eCommerce, were adamant about the opportunity to go faster.
 
“Our stores, 11,000 and growing, will provide access and convenience. If you need it right here, right now, we've got it,” McMillon told the roughly 15,000 people who filled the arena for a meeting that began promptly as 7 a.m. with a rousing rendition of “Happy” by Pharrell. “We will run great stores and clubs with great associates. We'll keep adding services and pick-up points to our stores to become even more convenient. We’ll also strive to have collection points wherever our customers want us to be, and we’ve seen the demand for food delivery in places like the U.K., Mexico and China. And of course, we'll keep improving our traditional e-commerce offering of ordering online and shipping to customers' homes.”

McMillon also described how Walmart will develop new capabilities to serve customers in new ways.

“It is important that we all understand the shift that has happened in technology and retail, what it means for us and what we’re doing to win. There’s a lot of innovation and opportunity available to us.” McMillon said.