Wal-Mart: A Victory Lap and Some Cold Water

Well I’m feeling flush with excitement.  First I got it kinda right on 3D printing, and now there’s another case where you’ll need to check my ego: Wal-Mart seems to be obviously moving forward with e-Commerce.   Awhile ago I suspected Wal-Mart could indeed “go geeky”, so I’ll consider this a partial victory.

In short, Wal-Mart clearly has to move with the times to have a presence in e-Commerce, and is clearly doing it.  I’d add that when you throw on it’s mobile investments, Silicon Valley skunkworks, and Vudu, it can play pretty big.

But since I first speculated on what Wal-Mart can do, I think their reputation has gotten worse.  I’m no fan of Wal-Mart at all, so consider my bias pre-announced, but I think that people think even less of them than they did a few years ago.

So here’s where I see a potential issue: Wal-Mart’s reputation can affect their ability to move forward.  I present this, of course, for analysis.

First, there’s a recruiting issue.  I know plenty of people who won’t even go into a Wal-Mart, so how many are going to want to work for them?  Not sure how a big of a dent this’ll put into potential talent, but I’m sure the dent is there.

Also keep this in mind – working at Wal-Mart puts that on people’s resumes.  How many people who would work for Wal-Mart would not do so due to what others may think.

Secondly, there’s the competitor issue.  Yes, Wal-Mart has a huge “install base,” but it also has penny of people gunning for it directly (Target, Amazon) as well as indirectly (virtually everyone else).  All it takes is an alliance between several ornery competitors to give Wal-Mart some pain.

Third, I think Wal-Mart may be at a demographic disadvantage.  I’m not sure how well their current demographic is going to adapt to a more high-tech Wal-Mart, and what kind of heavy e-commerce base they can count on.  I’m not sure, frankly.

Fourth, back to reputation.  Wal-Mart has a repetitional weakness that competitors, issue #2, could probably use against them.  If you think others won’t get nasty, think again – especially considering Wal-Mart could be a serious threat to them.

So quick summary of this:

  • I think Wal-Mart is moving forward.
  • I think competitors will use Wal-Mart’s reputation issues against them, and in some cases they won’t have to try.  It could lead to some very strange bedfellows.
  • If Wal-Mart gets highly aggressive, this is going to be really interesting.  I suspect they’re going to go for gradual evolution instead – far easier.

Could be a very interesting time in the Geekonomy.

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at http://www.fantopro.com/, nerd and geek culture at http://www.nerdcaliber.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at https://www.stevensavage.com/.