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Walmart Aims To Augment Its Supercenters In Struggle Against Amazon

Walmart, in its ongoing struggle against fellow retail giant Amazon, is planning to use its existing base of supercenters, which are about 180K SF each, as a platform to draw more shoppers and spark new revenue.

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Walmart CEO Doug McMillon outlined the new strategy at a recent meeting of company executives, The Wall Street Journal reports. The paper notes that Walmart's strategic focus will not involve building an ever-larger e-commerce business, though it will leverage data generated by its online business.

Rather, the plans call for such initiatives as selling advertising based on data generated by its stores. Walmart has been ramping up its advertising business in recent years, and will continue to do so as part of the new strategy. 

In April 2019, the company acquired Polymorph Labs, a Northern California-based startup. According to the retailer, Polymorph will enable Walmart advertisers to identify audiences for ads based on shopping behavior, deliver the ads and measure their influence. 

Walmart might also allow wireless telecom companies to erect 5G antennas on its stores' rooftops as that technology rolls out, the Motley Fool reports.

Similarly, Walmart is considering setting up servers in or near its stores to facilitate cloud computing services. That isn't a business that the company has much experience with, but it is possibly one that will prosper as autonomous vehicles and the Internet of Things drive up demand for faster and larger transfers of data.

Another supercenter-oriented growth strategy for Walmart involves committing itself to grocery deliveries wholeheartedly, including via autonomous vehicles. In December, the company tapped AV company Nuro to test delivering groceries in Houston. The Nuro vehicles, which are custom-built, will deliver online-ordered items to Walmart customers.

The test with Nuro is merely the latest foray into autonomous delivery for Walmart. Earlier in 2019, Walmart hired Udelv to test deliveries in Arizona, and soon after tapped Gatik AI to make deliveries from the retailer's main warehouse of its hometown of Bentonville, Arkansas, Tech Crunch reports.

The expanded focus on supercenters doesn't mean that Walmart is going to neglect e-commerce, however. Recently the company kicked off its version of Amazon Prime, known as Delivery Unlimited, which charges a flat monthly or annual fee to deliver groceries from many of its stores.