Walmart’s new online home shopping experience is the first glimpse of the company’s broader campaign to redesign its site with a focus on fashion and home furnishings. (Photo by The Associated Press)

Walmart to launch new online home shopping experience

  • Feb. 23, 2018 7:25 a.m.

NEW YORK — Bohemian or traditional?

Walmart is launching a new online home shopping experience in the coming weeks that will let shoppers discover items based on their style.

The move, announced Thursday, is the first glimpse of the company’s broader campaign to redesign its site with a focus on fashion and home furnishings. The overhauled website will be launched later this year and will mirror how people shop for different items. While some purchases like groceries are transactional, others like fashion and home furnishings require more discovery. Later this spring, Walmart is rolling out its new Lord & Taylor dedicated page as part of its partnership with the department store chain’s parent company Hudson’s Bay.

Walmart’s home shopping site will include curated collections and nine shop-by-style options including modern, traditional and bohemian. It will offer design tips that will help shoppers pull items together.

“With this launch, we’re making it faster, easier and more inspiring for customers to discover the best of our assortment no matter their personal style,” said Anthony Soohoo, senior vice-president and general manager of home for Walmart’s e-commerce division.

The move comes as Walmart, with its eye on Amazon.com, has been working to ramp up its e-commerce business, which still accounts for less than 4 per cent of its total sales. It’s overhauled its shipping strategy and expanded the number of items online to 75 million. In home furnishings, it doubled the number of products online from a year ago and introduced a new Scandinavian collection of furniture for children.

But Walmart faces stiff competition in the home arena not only from Amazon but home shopping sites like Wayfair.

Amazon has been growing its home offerings. It sells its own exclusive brands of furniture, sheets and other home goods. It signed a deal with Ethan Allen last year to sell its sofas, lamps and rugs, and Amazon shoppers can ask Ethan Allen experts for design advice. Boston-based Wayfair is the largest online-only furniture retailer and has a seemingly infinite range of products, but it’s facing more pressure from Amazon as it expands deeper into the home arena.

Target has also been stepping up its offerings in home furnishings, both online and in the store. Two years ago, it started offering vignettes in the home area of its physical stores to inspire shoppers to buy.

Walmart’s latest online strategy comes as it hit a snag in its e-commerce business for the critical fiscal fourth quarter, after enjoying a surging e-commerce business over the past few quarters that helped lift its stock. Its U.S. e-commerce business rose 23 per cent for the fiscal fourth quarter, a dramatic slowdown from the 50 per cent growth in the previous quarter. Shares fell 10.2 per cent on Tuesday to post its biggest single-day percentage drop in 30 years.

Walmart says it expects its e-commerce business to ramp up this year and sees e-commerce rising 40 per cent this year, the same pace as last year.

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