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Maybe They Should Call It

Frank Ahrens

That's what I get for setting my expectations too high. No big bombshells from Wal-Mart in its morning Webcast announcement.

The big news, from the company's perspective, is that it has redesigned its Web site. Wal-Mart said it heard from customers who said they wanted a cleaner, easier-to-use site that would not only show products but show how they looked together. Hence, the new Web site shows what a bedroom looks like with Wal-Mart furniture, Wal-Mart sheets, Wal-Mart lamps and so on.

It's all part of the company's attempt to make their bricks-and-mortar stores and online store easier to use; evidently, customers are getting tired of weaving around pallets of one-gallon pickle jars in Wal-Mart aisles.

The Webcast featured chief executive Carter Cast and chief marketing officer Raul Vazquez sitting in a studio, taking "questions" from a spokesmodel. It's a popular format for television infomercials used by product-makers of everything from self-help books to male-enhancement pills.

Vazquez was animated; Cast, not so much. Cast did say, however, that research has helped Wal-Mart create a composite picture of its best customer: She is a woman in her early 40s, lives in the suburbs and has "several" children. "We call her Nancy," Cast said.

Two gripes about the Webcast: First, they said it would last 30 minutes. It clocked in at 17 minutes. (I guess Wal-Mart saves you time as well as money.) Second, they did not answer either of my questions about the video-download service they're working on. Shocker!

Oh, there was this: Cast said you can buy a two-carat diamond ring at for $6,000. Bling me, baby!

Let's hear from you: How many of you have used Wal-Mart's Web site to shop? Where does Wal-Mart fit in your tech-buying universe? In February of this year, according to stats from ComScore, Wal-Mart was the nation's fourth-largest online retailer in traffic to its Web site, behind (in order) eBay, Amazon and Apple, though there was a big drop-off from No. 1 -- had less than one-third of eBay's business.

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 24, 2006; 12:56 PM ET  | Category:  Frank Ahrens
Previous: Lunchtime Briefing: What's Up Wal-Mart's Sleeve? | Next: Thumbs Down

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I looked into Wal-Mart when buying an engagement ring. Their diamonds are big, but you get what you pay for - notice they don't include the IG cert on the webpage. I eventually went with (a smaller, better clarity diamond from) Blue Nile.

Posted by: Looks Yellower in Real Life | October 24, 2006 12:14 PM

Wal-Mart constantly strives to have the lowest wages, and lowest employee benefits, of any retailer on the country.

Wal-Mart constantly strives to have their suppliers ship USA manufacturing jobs overseas, in the name of higher margins and higher corporate profits.

And Wal-Mart's competition has been economically pressured to follow in their footsteps.

Cue John Lennon:

Imagine there's no Wal-Mart... :-)

Posted by: JohnJ | October 24, 2006 12:16 PM

I've only use Wal-Marts e-mail ordering system once, but was very impressed with its easy use and fast processing. I will use it again and often.

Posted by: MARY JANE GROSSMAN | October 24, 2006 12:34 PM

I think its odd that they didn't move to fit in a 1024x768 resolution and stayed at 800x600. The design overall is very nice and clean. I'll never go through their ordering process though because the only time I look at their site is to see if I can find something cheaper and I never do.

Posted by: Danielle | October 24, 2006 1:18 PM functions just fine as an online retailer. I am not sure I represent the 'typical' consumer, but all I want from an eCommerce site is clear navigation, good search capabilities, good product information and easy and secure checkout. Continuously modifying "look and feel" does not impact my propensity to spend money at a site or improve my buying experience.

Now if they add new services like video download - that would be attractive. That would also be a reason to modify the site - to ensure consumer awareness.

Posted by: Frank Eichorn | October 24, 2006 2:02 PM

Personally, I'd rather be shot than give those scum at Wal-Mart a penny.

Posted by: John | October 24, 2006 2:34 PM

I don't shop at Wal-mart.

Posted by: MWB | October 24, 2006 4:25 PM

Wal-Mart just doesn't get it. With the lowest wages, worst health care, and poor working conditions most of its employees can't even afford to shop Wal-Mart. It's not their web site that needs revamping. CEO Scott is the highest paid CEO in the US making $5 million last year, yet his employees make a little under $14,000 and live on welfare, with no health insurance. They just got hit with another multi-million dollar court judgment from 161,000 of their current and former employees! As a former large shareholder of Wal-Mart I can say for certain that they need to revamp more than their web site.

Posted by: John Conley | October 24, 2006 4:35 PM

I work for WalMart, and buy all my consumables from them with the exception of fresh food. I am an hourly employee, I have 2 children, and have never received public assistance in any form. My husband also works for them. I am quite satisfied with my health insurance that comes at a cost of $41/week for my family. In fact, my household income far exceeds that of our average customer, all of whom think that we are all making less than $14000/year. It is a little disconcerting to constantly have people telling you that you are living off the system and are desperately poor, but I guess you get used to it.

I checked out the new web site, and I think it is improved.

Oh, and John, maybe you dumped your stock in an effort to find a more socially responsible investment, but maybe you shouldn't have, because our stock is on the rise. I dumped mine long ago because it hasn't been performing. Ah, well.

Posted by: Marcy Ishman | October 25, 2006 11:31 AM

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