Wal-Mart Evolves: Aerodynamic Trucks and Big Data Marketing

Wal-Mart Stores Inc.  has always been focused on change — “Sam Walton said the only way to stay in front of change is to be relentless,” Walmart’s senior vice president of creative, Andy Murray, said, per FierceRetail. But nowadays, the focus of that progressive drive isn’t on moves to improve operational efficiency the way it once was.

For one, Walmart is taking its sustainability objectives seriously: The company is unrolling a new fleet of futuristic delivery trucks with new, energy-efficient features designed to help the retailer meet its goals.

“Walmart is continually looking for innovative ways to increase our efficiencies and reduce our fleet’s emissions,” said Tracy Rosser, Walmart’s senior vice president of transportation, according to a press release.

The company operates the largest private delivery fleet in the U.S. and announced in 2005 that it would aim to double its fleet’s efficiency by 2015, according to FierceRetail. Over the past year, the company said it achieved an 84 percent improvement in fleet efficiency since 2005.

The Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience, unveiled at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Kentucky, is a concept tractor-trailer combination that features a super-aerodynamic design and other energy-efficient features, including auxiliary components powered by electricity.

But Walmart is pioneering changes in other departments, too: Marketing is a big one. Walmart recognizes that consumers are tech-savvy and have several different things on their minds when they shop. “The consumer is so far ahead in terms of technology, they are out in front of us. Customer changes have to be based on the benefits to them,” Murray said, per FierceRetail.

Walmart also plans to use big data to inform its marketing practices, taking into account that price is a huge factor today, perhaps more so than it has been in the past. Additionally, the company see that more and more consumers, young people in particular, are interested in and care about where their food comes from.

The company is tackling these values by running campaigns that feature meaningful messages and commitments, such as one that illustrated the company’s commitment to supporting U.S. manufacturing and jobs. Murray says that the ads are working, too. “We saw conversion rates on par with our seasonal campaign after the ads ran,” he said in a press release.

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And for customers for whom the biggest priority is savings, Walmart has launched its “Savings Catcher” tool, which allows shoppers to easily compare their purchases to similar items found elsewhere. It then automatically credits them the difference if they paid more for the same item at Walmart.

The company is also focusing on customizing in-store messages by location, offering prompts based on the weather, as well as offering ads and deals for relevant merchandise, FierceRetail reports.

Murray emphasized the importance of big data in a statement. He says that in his previous work as part of a startup, he learned the importance of utilizing data to a company’s advantage. “You’ve got to find a way to learn more and immerse yourself in these new technologies,” he said. “It will be increasingly difficult to stay relevant without [them].”