Tuesday, April 19th, 2011
The US-based retail giant, which Forbes ranked last year as the world’s largest public corporation by revenue, was early to get in on the social act but with infamously varied success – including a networking community called Hub they shut down after 10 weeks and fake blogs created with their agency Edelman.
However, by 2009 Forrester social guru Josh Bernoff seemed to think that they were finally heading in the right direction with a range of effective initiatives including elevenmoms.com, the promotion of on-site recommendations and reviews using Bazzarvoice, and, perhaps most importantly, a shift in management attitudes resulting in “a company open and receptive to embracing and empowering its customers and employees online, regardless of what they end up saying.”
And yesterday things got really interesting with the announcement that Walmart have spent $300 million acquiring social media startup Kosmix, creator of the ‘Social Genome’ platform “which filters and organises social network content and creates profiles of users, products and places”.
The aim is to produce an innovation project called@WalmartLabs, as described by Kosmix co-founder Anand Rajarman:
“We are at an inflection point in the development of ecommerce. The first generation of ecommerce was about bringing the store to the web. The next generation will be about building integrated experiences that leverage the store, the web, and mobile, with social identity being the glue that binds the experience. Walmart’s enormous global reach and incredible scale of operations — from the United States and Europe to growing markets like China and India — is unprecedented. @WalmartLabs, which combines Walmart’s scale with Kosmix’s social genome platform, is in a unique position to invent and build this future.”
We’ve discussed the development of social commerce many times before, but it is clear that when companies of this size start investing volumes of money that large on combining social, mobile and retail, the resulting alchemy is going to define the way we shop in a pretty short timescale.
Walmart are a classic example of my favourite Samuel Beckett quote:
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
They got stuck into social early and they’ve made lots of mistakes; but they’ve weathered the knocks, learnt from them, and keep pushing forwards with bold initiatives when most retailers still think social commerce means selling your daughter to a duke.
Guys, it’s time to wake up.