retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Interesting confluence of stories this week as the Washington Post writes about how “Wal-Mart has been fusing innovations from the mobile and social-networking worlds to create the foundation for a radically new type of hyper-personalized shopping experience.” Meanwhile, Reuters reports that Amazon has created a new Social Games Group internally, and is “stepping up social media efforts after the largest Internet retailer partially missed one of the hottest technology trends of recent years.”

According to the Post, Walmart’s focus on the bricks-and-mortar world means that it makes sense for it to explore “acquisitions as a way of catching up with competitors such as Amazon. With deals for social media start-up Kosmix ($300 million) and video download platform Vudu ($100 million), Wal-Mart might just be the Biggest Start-up in Silicon Valley You’ve Never Heard Of.

“Not only is the company becoming a leader in digital movie downloads with Vudu, it is also pioneering the integration of social data into the e-commerce experience. This goes way beyond just grafting on Facebook ‘like’ buttons to an e-commerce shopping cart. It means the full embrace of Big Data — something that Wal-Mart has lots of — as a way of learning about customers and making the shopping experience that much better. In short, Wal-Mart is using Kosmix (a.k.a. @Wal-MartLabs) to fundamentally change the shopping experience by taking what it knows about your digital and mobile behaviors and transforming that into hyper-personalized offers, promotions and discounts.”
KC's View:
Not everybody will be able to replicate or imitate what these two behemoths do in the online space, as they jockey for position. But nobody should take any of this stuff for granted; while a lot of companies may find themselves fighting the last war, Walmart and Amazon seem very focused on fighting the next war, which has rules of engagement that haven;t even been figured out yet. Or, tougher yet, no rules at all.

Let me make a brief - and completely transparent - commercial plug here. MNB sponsor MyWebGrocer will shortly be making available via MNB a series of videos that were shot at the last SymphonyIRI Summit, in which I interviewed a panel about the future of e-grocery. Watch for it ... I think you’ll find it interesting.