Profile: Tom Ward, Senior Vice President, Digital Operations, Walmart U.S.
Tom Ward began working for Asda, Walmart’s British arm, in various field and home office-based roles mostly focused on operation. He moved to the U.S. in 2013 to work in the international business segment supporting the development teams and learning more about the various segments and operating models around the Walmart world. He moved to the U.S. segment in 2014 to work on the development of the central operations function for Walmart Neighborhood Market and eventually expanded to supercenters. Ward’s previous roles gave him the opportunity to support the creation of a foundation to accelerate Walmart’s e-commerce online grocery business quickly.
Please describe your current job responsibilities and the function of your team.
Ward: I’m currently responsible for the online grocery business for Walmart U.S. – pickup and delivery. My team has end-to-end responsibility for the online grocery website, application, roadmap and field execution. We also lead the e-commerce automation initiatives in stores and field-based sites like the standalone pickup and automated stores. The team develops the tech roadmap for the online grocery business. We lead online grocery’s web merchandising, in-store tech and the field operations for both pickup and online grocery delivery.
Can you share a recent example of your team’s work in e-commerce that stands out?
Ward: The launch of our AJAX 2.0 site in Sherman, Texas. This store allows shoppers to go online and place their order just like any other store but then goes beyond that. When shoppers are ready to collect their groceries, they simply drive up to the AJAX unit and scan their order confirmation at the ATM-like screen – a crane system then recovers their order automatically and presents it to them in the aperture. Once they have all their items – including fresh and frozen – they are good to go. They really enjoy the speedy convenience.
How does your team engage with Walmart’s shopper marketing team?
Ward: Our team partners with various functions within the marketing department to ensure we represent the various and ever-improving propositions to our shoppers in new and innovative ways. For example, during the launch and ongoing expansion of our online grocery delivery program, we use welcome bags that even include a mini online grocery delivery toy car.
For small and emerging brands, is going beyond basic product information to provide enhanced content worth the investment?
Ward: Rich content data is becoming increasingly more important to our shoppers. For brands who wish to sell their items online, the better the imagery, description and information, the better the shoppers’ experience will be as they interact with those items as they can make more informed choices.
How can all brands, in general, take better advantage of the opportunities in e-commerce?
Ward: We find that our shoppers want to have seamless access to our products and great prices – be that in store, online for curbside pickup or for home delivery. For Walmart, that journey begins with great in-stock as the items our online shoppers buy are subsequently picked from the same shelf as our physical shoppers. So what matters most in-store is what matters most online for us.
What can consumers expect in the near future for the Walmart Grocery website (grocery.walmart.com)?
Ward: We are always releasing new features to both the online grocery website and application. Some great recent examples include the development of a smarter favorites engine which helps surface items our shoppers have told us they love when they are on Rollback or highlight seasonal campaigns at key moments in the year to remind them of items they may need during back to school, for example. We are also testing our smart substitution model, which helps make great personalized choices for shoppers when items are out of stock in the store.
We know shoppers love to browse the extensive assortment on Walmart.com and shop the millions of items available. We are also very conscious that they want to save time when shopping for food and consumables on our online grocery site. We continue to aim to make these transitions more seamless in the future to bring ultimate convenience to them.