Walmart goes upscale in selling furniture, home goods online
Walmart might be known for low prices in its stores, but when it comes to selling home goods on its website, it’s aiming to be a bit more high end.
Seeking to elevate its online shopping experience from functional to fashionable, Walmart is sharpening the way it presents furniture, linen, and other home items online — a move that could also help it stand apart from rival Amazon.
Walmart says that in the next few weeks, its online customers will see a new destination page for home items — a breakdown of style choices ranging from “glam” to “farmhouse” — and more polished photos that give shoppers ideas about how to transform rooms in their apartment or house.
While buying staples such as soap or groceries tends to be a more basic transaction, “a category like home is much more about inspiration,” says Anthony Soohoo, a senior vice president for Walmart U.S. eCommerce. “In fact, the consumer does not really know what they want to purchase until they see it, which was one of the reasons why it was really important for us to build a very visual shopping experience.”
The new display is a step toward a broader revamp of Walmart.com the retailer plans to unveil later this year. Clothing will also receive a more vivid presentation, and the changes could entice shoppers at a time when Walmart has reported slowing online sales — news that rattled investors this week.
“Shopping online at Walmart can be functional and uninspiring,” says Neil Saunders, managing director of retail consultancy GlobalData. “Making the website more engaging will make the process more interesting for shoppers. … (And home furnishings) are often considered purchases, so consumers like to understand products before buying them.”
Walmart became the biggest retailer in the world by courting a mass audience with low prices, but recently it has been pursuing a more affluent, fashion-conscious shopper. In addition to purchasing niche sites such as menswear portal Bonobos, Walmart announced in November that upscale department store Lord & Taylor will have a presence on Walmart.com. Now, in the home space, Walmart.com has nearly doubled the furniture, small kitchen appliances and other items that it offers for sale. The available styles will include bohemian, Scandinavian and other trendy choices. But Walmart touts that prices will still be low. A Better Homes and Gardens Collin wood and metal dining table, for instance, costs $169 while a Rizzy Home throw pillow sells for $23.
“It is a fast-growing market with strong demand … partly thanks to the robust housing market,” Saunders says. Also “home, and in particular furniture, is one of the areas where Amazon has been relatively less successful. Walmart has chosen a good category to drive sales.”
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