Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in November began offering customers a service that lets them upload digital photos at www.walmart.com or www.samsclub.com, edit and share them online, and pick up photo prints within one hour of placing an online order at a local Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market, SuperCenter, or Sam's Club store. By the end of the year the service will be available at approximately 3,000 stores.
It's all part of the process of bringing retail and E-tail operations closer together. "We're leveraging the bricks-and-mortar stores and E-commerce to leverage the strengths of both," says Linda Dillman, executive VP and CIO. "We're marrying the strengths of being able to do something at home and pick it up at the neighborhood store." The company learned from past experience with mail-in photo developing that customers preferred to pick up their prints in stores rather than have them mailed back, to save shipping charges as well as to be able to pick up their photos along with their grocery items.
The Information Systems Division group tailored the software used in the photo kiosks inside Wal-Mart and Sam's Club locations for the Web site. The software can be downloaded or picked up at retail locations.
This isn't the first time Wal-Mart has let consumers order something online and then pick it up in stores. It does the same for prescription refills and, in states where it's legal, customers also can order contact lenses online and pick them up in stores. "In the prior dot-com boom you read a lot about companies wanting to merge functions and this time they're taking action," says Carol Mosely, VP of information systems, who's responsible for human resources, help-desk, store, and specialty systems.
And Wal-Mart also has piloted a test to let customers order online specialty merchandise generally not held in stores' inventory, such as textbooks, and pick that up in stores. The existence of systems to support the pharmacy and optical pick-up service gave Wal-Mart a vehicle to build on when adding this option. "We had to do a little change in the stores," Mosely says, "but the main functionality existed."
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