It’s fair to say a lot of the financial reporting is heavily focused on the movers and shakers in Big Tech. That’s understandable when FAAMG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Google) companies account for such a hefty slice of the stock market. At one point in 2020, Forbes reported that those five companies represented around 25% of the total value of the S&P 500, and that they accounted before approximately 76% of the S&P 500’s 23% of gains since 2017. In short, financial reporting leans towards FAAMG companies because they have an outsized impact on the market.
However, it’s easy to forget that some big hitters from the traditional business sector should also be considered tech giants. Walmart, in particular, fits this bill. We think of Walmart as the giant brick-and-mortar retailer, but it launched its first eCommerce platform all the way back in 2000, and only Amazon has more unique visitors each month. While it’s a huge business, Walmart is far from being clunky or outmoded. It still tops the Fortune 500 list of America’s largest corporations.
There is sometimes talk of Amazon versus Walmart, with the former perceived to be muscling out the latter. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Walmart is, of course, touched by the Amazonifcation of the retail industry, but it is more than holding its own in the retail battleground. Even across 2020, when the pandemic caused huge disruption to its physical stores, Walmart made record revenue and retained its place as the world’s largest retailer.
BigCommerce users can now sell on Walmart.com
But Walmart is clearly wary of what Amazon represents, and it has made moves to counter and compete with the online giant. One such strategy is to expand the Walmart Marketplace platform, allowing it to become a thriving platform for other independent retailers. Last month, Walmart signed a significant deal with BigCommerce, a SaaS eCommerce platform. You can navigate here to read a full review of BigCommerce and its solutions for online sales, but it’s enough to say that it is an important player in the eCommerce sector.
The deal between Walmart and BigCommerce means that the latter’s brands will now have direct access to Walmart.com’s 120 million+ unique monthly visitors. It’s clearly a great deal for BigCommerce and its clients, but it arguably says something more fundamental about Walmart and its ambitions. Walmart launched its Marketplace in 2009. But it’s fair to say that it remained relatively limited in scope. We stress the term “relatively” there, as it is still a huge enterprise. However, it never really felt like a rival to Amazon or eBay’s operations.
However, that seems to be changing fast. In 2020, Walmart announced a partnership with another significant player in eCommerce solutions – Shopify. And it is now considered to be catching up with Amazon in the online sphere. Some intriguing stats include: Walmart’s web traffic increased by 55% when the Covid-19 pandemic hit from February to April 2020, with Amazon’s only increasing 15%. By August 2020, Walmart cited a 97% increase in Marketplace growth.
Walmart now allowing non-US vendors on platform
But there has been another development announced in late March 2021 – Walmart has opened its Marketplace to sellers outside the US for the first time. Forbes called it a “clear effort to be more competitive with Amazon and, at the same time, to tap into China’s vast network of manufacturers.”. Both of those elements are noteworthy, and they give us some insight into the ambitions of Walmart’s management.
So, to recap. Walmart has operated Marketplace for a dozen years now. However, within the space of less than a year, the company has signed deals with eCommerce platforms Shopify and BigCommerce, reported record revenues with its sales and record growth in its Marketplace, and expanded the latter to non-US sellers.
The company has been in business for almost 60 years since being founded in Arkansas in 1962 and has been a symbol of American economic might for generations. However, we might look back at this period as one of the most pivotal in Walmart’s history. The deal with BigCommerce – and the one with Shopify last year – was only really a footnote in the cycle of financial reporting. But it represents something of a lot bigger in Walmart’s evolution.