Walmart's online store could tap into social networking even more deeply, Harinarayan said. The company is trying to find the right way to take advantage of data on daily activity on online social services. That won't be simply by having a Facebook page where users can find and buy things, but through integrating shopping into the usual things Facebook users do, he said. An obvious way is with buying gifts, a naturally social activity. "Gifting is not done well today on the Web," Harinarayan said.
"This actually has been playing really, really well over the last few weeks as we've started engaging some of this," he said. Mining social-networking data "can impact billions of dollars of merchandise if we get it right," he added.
Walmart eventually would like to provide an API (application programming interface) and let third parties create applications using some of these capabilities, but it is still very early in the development process, Harinarayan said.
Harinarayan declined to give more details on Thursday about Walmart Labs' purchase of Australian startup Grabble, a developer of point-of-sale systems for mobile phones.