The pioneering grocery ecommerce store of Walmart Argentina
Walmart is a brand that is inextricably close to VTEX’s heart. In 2007, for instance, Walmart Brazil’s vote of confidence in VTEX as an ecommerce platform provider breathed new life into our company, setting up the foundation for the growth it has experienced ever since. Similarly, Walmart Argentina was the first Argentinian grocery chain to have placed its trust in our ecommerce technology for its upcoming online store. In a way, our brands grew together, reinforcing one another.
The American retail titan’s operations in Argentina began in 1995 in Buenos Aires. Despite starting with a single store, the Walmart brand family was propelled forward by a value proposition combining low prices and good quality. Consequently, it currently has over 90 brick-and-mortar stores under the names Walmart Supercenters, Changomas, Mi Changomas and Punto Mayorista, spread across 21 provinces and the capital, alongside a distribution center and three production facilities. It is also one of the biggest employers in the country, with more than 10,000 associates helping shape the brand’s customer-centric strategy.
On the hunt
In 2011, Walmart launched its ecommerce website using the monolithic Microsoft Commerce Server technology, recognizing that digital commerce would take over the grocery industry soon enough. However, not a lot of time passed until Walmart realized the monolithic technology imposed limitations on the retailer’s upcoming plans for a bold expansion, which was going to be heavily focused on omnichannel.
Thus, four years later, Walmart was in search of scalability and a better user experience for its grocery ecommerce store. The new ecommerce solution would need to be powerful enough to manage tens of thousands of SKUs, each with its special conditions, and support the associated prices, stock availability and promotions.
Last but not least, it would also need to be economical and without any hidden costs or much hassle in terms of internal maintenance. This latter requirement came about because Walmart wanted to focus on what it does best, namely the retail side of things. Technology would therefore be left to those capable of dealing with the complex and ever-evolving needs of online grocery operations. With such an approach, Walmart would act as an orchestrator of systems and partners, benefitting from the comparative advantage of each.
All those considerations made Walmart choose VTEX.
Bringing grocery omnichannel to life
After a six-month frictionless migration process, one in which the VTEX team was heavily involved from beginning to end, Walmart Argentina’s new ecommerce store was launched. Now, the grocery chain could go ahead and scale its operations on both physical and digital premises, always maintaining the two channels connected.
“At the end of the day, a native app for example is not only for ecommerce, it is for paying in-store, for locating an item in the physical store, etc. In real life, there are physical and digital interactions all the time.”Ariel Leiro, Walmart Argentina Senior Operations Manager
Forever a pioneer, Walmart Argentina already introduced pick-up in-store and curbside pick-up in one of its hypermarkets by the end of 2016, bringing convenience to its grocery ecommerce store and anticipating current market trends. In parallel, the retailer also opened new brick-and-mortar stores and remodelled some of its existing ones at an impressive speed. However, it did so while constantly being aware of the implications for ecommerce. For example, in 2018 there was a slowdown in capital expenditure to instead ensure all stores were equipped with the tools for a strong omnichannel strategy.
Yet a channel symbiosis of this magnitude is not so straightforward. One challenge it presents is related to internal culture. For Walmart Argentina to reach its goal of becoming a grocery ecommerce leader, it needed all its employees to be aligned on what ecommerce means, how to support it thoroughly and why Walmart must adhere to it.
“People don’t understand that ecommerce is not just the 12-person ecommerce team, it’s the whole company. Everyone has to speak the same language.”Ariel Leiro, Walmart Argentina Senior Operations Manager
Retrospectively, the efforts to embrace digital proved especially profitable during the pandemic, when the conversion rate for the ecommerce store exploded by 42%. Partially, this boom was owed to offering order pick-up in more than 20 locations, a process for which Janis, an OMS designed by Fizzmod specifically with grocers in mind and fully integrated with VTEX, has been instrumental. Overall, ever since Walmart joined VTEX, the retailer’s ecommerce operations grew by an incredible 769%.
A partner for grocery ecommerce growth
Recently, Grupo Narvaez acquired the Walmart Argentina operations, determined to continue leveraging its significant brick-and-mortar presence for a robust omnichannel strategy in the region on par with current consumer trends. Grupo Narvaez will thus have two of its main businesses utilizing VTEX Commerce Platform: Walmart in Argentina and TaTa Supermercados in Uruguay.
At the same time, the friendship between Walmart and VTEX continues, with a Central America ecommerce expansion on the table after a more than fruitful collaboration in Argentina. The challenge is now to elevate the ecommerce operations in Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. But with more than 90% of Walmart Central America’s needs natively covered by the VTEX offering, we’re well on our way towards achieving another success.