Geeks May Save Wal-Mart

Geeks may just save Wal-Mart. Gods, I don't believe I'm saying this.

I'll get it out of the way, I'm not exactly a fan of Wal-Mart. It's a combination of business factors, quality, effects on community and so on. You know, the usual.  I'm not exactly going to diss success, but I think Wal-Mart's been on a kind of a race to the bottom.

In fact, it looks like that bottom is being reached pretty fast, as this article notes:  Wal-Mart shoppers are running out of money:

Yes, Wal-Mart has worked on low prices and cheap stuff, a lot of it's target market are paycheck-to-paycheck people, and they're not doing too hot in this economy.  So, Wal-Mart, has to adapt.

In fact, Target is starting to beat them on prices:

But Wal-Mart is also juggling things around.  Home delivery.  Lower prices. Specialty stores.  I want to go out on a limb though and suggest that Wal-Mart may save itself by going more upscale, more technical, and thus and more geeky.

No, I'm not insane, not that you can prove anyway.  I'm just speculating, which can sound insane, but has the benefit of also coming off as thoughtful and erudite.  Even when insane.

So here's my simple take: Wal-Mart's possible future is relying on online and relying on technology.  More than that, I think the evidence is there this is their plan.  In short, I think Wal-Mart's future is tech, and that means that  . . . people like us may end up saving Wal-Mart.

I would like to speculate that Wal-Mart's salvation (from 7 declining quarters actually) would be to go upscale, go high-tech, and leverage what they have on the web.  In short, it's time to take on some of the more IT-oriented businesses – Amazon, Netflix, and so on.  Such things as:

  • Further target Amazon by leveraging online presence and branching out.  Wal-Mart has a huge delivery and supply chain, a huge installed footprint.  They can work with that.
  • Consider the ecosystem possibilities.  If they can get Vudu up and running, can't they do other things like, say, music?  Wal-Mart, in short could build its own Ecosystem like Google is trying, like Amazon is obviously doing, like Apple has.  And again, they have a huge installed base.
  • Yes, why not Wal-Mart branded technologies?
  • Why not leverage that huge store footprint to do more things like, say, cell phones and electronics.  Take on Best Buy as well . . . OK, further.

There are many ways for a more technical, Ecosystem-oriented, Wal-Mart to survive.  They may not have any choice considering their problems.

And, yes, you, my fellow progeek, may some day be considering working for them if they do.  Can you resist the lure of an integrated physical-virtual infrastructure store?  Could you avoid the siren song of working on a new brand of Android tablet?  The call of some new technical challenge may take you to the place known for large borderline-bulk sales of candy and cheap socks.

If my theory is correct working at Wal-Mart . . . may one day be geeky.

I have no idea how to feel about that.

Steven Savage