Is it too far-fetched to wonder if the Whole Foods Market senior executive team in Austin, TX is worried? How long might it be before Wal-Mart becomes the world's largest retailer of organic food? After all, it already ranks first in merchandise categories ranging from apparel, consumer electronics, and toys to dog food.
Retail Technologies the Key Dependencies
If you've read this far, you may wonder how does all of the above relate to Wal-Mart's use of information technologies. Furthermore, it's legitimate to ask what all of this has to do with how other retailers should or could use their information technology assets to reposition themselves.
My answers to both questions are the same a hell of a lot! Simply stated, Wal-Mart's IT assets are critical to its healthy food initiative and its expansion of small-footprint stores into urban America. Here's a quick rundown by application class and infrastructure.
Vendor Management, PLM, and PIM
Vendor certification, product formulation, and specifications management are fundamental to taking 10% of sugar, 25% of salt, and all trans-fats and partially hydrogenated oils out of its private label food products.
Vendor certification, product lifecycle management for package specification, and production information management (PIM) are essential to putting more informative labels on food product packages. It's a sure bet that Wal-Mart's PIM applications will handle nutrition and ingredient data and that it will require vendors to include the same as they load item information into Wal-Mart's PIM database.
Omnichannel Customer Engagement
This will put Wal-Mart ahead in another important regard. At some point, rest assured, Wal-Mart will enable its grocery shoppers with an omnichannel facility to manage shopping lists, health- and lifestyle-related food preferences, and side- by-side product comparisons. Groupe Casino, the world's 18th largest grocer and leading hypermarket operator in France, is already delighting customers with such capabilities in a pilot program. To do this Group Casino has had to overcome the lack of product information relevant and important to customers in its PIM databases. In typical Wal-Mart fashion, expect Bentonville to shift much of the effort required to do the same onto its supplier base.
Supply Chain, Logistics, and Demand Management