Other conventional and online retailers might be gearing up for a slower holiday, but Walmart.com is expecting record traffic – and Christmas sales – this season. The world’s largest chain retailer, No. 13 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, isn’t breaking out specific figures, but is forecasting that its online holiday shopping sales could grow by 40% to 60%.
Walmart.com is also expecting site traffic on Thanksgiving to exceed 10 million visits. In previous years on Thanksgiving and through the following Monday, Walmart.com has featured special holiday prices on limited special items that shoppers can purchase in a Wal-Mart store. This year Walmart.com will double the number of items from 10 to 20 and feature new items each day beginning on Thanksgiving and extending through the following weekend.
Walmart.com will also increase the number of special items available only online from 50 to 100. With more diversity on Walmart.com, Wal-Mart is changing its entire approach to online holiday shopping to coincide with changing consumer behavior. “We are finding that prior to Thanksgiving and on Thanksgiving shoppers are researching their purchases and looking online to see who will have the best deal and the merchandise they want,” says Walmart.com CEO Raul Vazquez. “That attitude changes on the Friday after Thanksgiving and through the next week as shoppers go into a purchasing mode.”
Walmart.com’s new holiday approach is to support the stores while at the same time generating more sales online. “We are expecting record traffic all during the holiday season,” says Vazquez. “We’ve been adding programs to the web site that support the stores and the online shopper.”
For example, Walmart.com has fully implemented a ship-to-store program that gives customers the option to have the items they bought online delivered directly to a convenient store. The ship-to-store program, which Walmart.com fully rolled out in July, now accounts for about one-third of all online sales, says Vazquez. Walmart.com also has launched real-time inventory tools that give shoppers the ability to check some product availability online and in stores. “The changes we have made over time will support a Wal-Mart shopper across any channel they want to use,” says Vazquez.
Last year on the Friday after Thanksgiving Walmart.com incurred periodic outages as a record number of visitors and bargain hunters overwhelmed the site looking for deals. At one point Walmart.com posted a splash page that read: “Sorry, we`re experiencing high volume.” But this Christmas season Walmart.com has purchased more hardware and reengineered some of the site’s architecture to troubleshoot any performance problems. “We’ve been working on this for a year,” says Vazquez.