News Feature | March 27, 2017

Walmart Launches Startup Incubator Store No. 8

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

Walmart's Omni Channel Strategy

Silicon Valley incubator aims to identify changes that will reshape the retail experience.

Walmart has announced the launch of a technology-startup incubator located in Silicon Valley and dubbed Store No. 8, whose aim is to identify changes that will reshape the retail experience, according to Bloomberg. It will focus on technology like machine learning, artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, robotics,  autonomous vehicle and drone delivery, and personalized shopping, and the incubator was announced by Marc Lore, chief executive officer of Walmart’s e-commerce operations at the recent ShopTalk Conference in Las Vegas.

Walmart has been focused on challenging Amazon in the ecommerce retail space for some time, and Lore’s move to Walmart represents that new direction. Lore also said that more Walmart acquisitions are already in the works which will accelerate the retailer’s expansion in the online arena.

Target has also recently been ramping up its acquisitions with its so-called aqui-hires that are bolstering the retailer’s ability to accelerate the onboarding of talent and technologies to market.

Last Fall, Walmart announced plans to double its ecommerce warehouses and slow its brick-and-mortar store openings, demonstrating its commitment to growing its ecommerce sales and provide a greater challenge to Amazon, as Innovative Retail Technologies reported. The new ecommerce initiatives are being driven by founder Lore; Walmart purchased in September for $3.3 billion. Lore asserts that Walmart has a leg up over its purely e-commerce competitors because it can leverage its large network of physical stores.

"Every day, I become more and more convinced about the omnichannel advantage," Lore said, referring to a sales strategy that combines online and in-store shopping. "Walmart does a pretty good job of enabling online sales for its retail inventory," Michael Jude, a program manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan. "Where it falls short is enabling a retail ecosystem where many companies can sell goods and services under their umbrella," he told the E-Commerce Times.

Lore announced a new incubation and strategic-partnerships division in January, to be led by Seth Beal. The incubator will partner with startups, venture capitalists, and academics in order to promote innovations across a number of fields to create a fast-moving, separate entity that can identify emerging technologies for use across the Walmart operations.