Wal-Mart doubles down on e-commerce in Brazil
July 2, 2014 03:02 PM
To keep pace with web sales growing twice as fast as e-commerce in general in Brazil, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will continue to build out its e-commerce infrastructure and product inventory at a rapid pace, Walmart.com.br president Flavio Dias tells Internet Retailer.
Dias says that over the next few years Walmart.com.br will open three e-commerce fulfillment centers throughout Brazil to keep pace with rising e-commerce sales. Internet Retailer estimates that web sales for Walmart.com.br grew 67.4% to $640.5 million in 2013 from $382.7 million in 2012. Internet Retailer basis that estimate on monthly visits of 28.4 million from web traffic measurement firm comScore Inc., an estimated monthly conversion rate of 2.47% and an average ticket of $76.
Walmart.com.br does not disclose its online sales, but Dias does say that Walmart.com.br did grow more than twice as fast as total e-commerce in Brazil. That growth rate was 28% to $12.82 billion in 2013 from $10.02 billion in 2012, according to eBit, a Brazilian e-commerce and information technology research firm. Dias also says that Wal-Mart has a goal of becoming over time the biggest Braziian web merchant. Currently B2W Digital is Brazil’s largest web merchant with e-commerce sales that grew 26.6% to $2.62 billion from $2.07 billion in 2012.
Walmart.com.br, No. 8 in Internet Retailer’s 2013 Latin America 400 has plans to one day overtake B2W Digital (No.1) and other large Brazilian web merchants by continuing to add more inventory and distribution capacity and hiring more e-commerce employees. “We intend to be the number one company,” Dias says.
Today Walmart.com.br employs 1,200 web site designers, programmers, marketers and other e-commerce professionals in Brazil, up from just 200 three years ago, Dias says. Wal-Mart began selling online in Brazil in late 2008. “Walmart.com.br is actually kind of young and newer to the e-commerce party,” Dias says. “Because we came later, we learned from others and we were able to avoid some of their mistakes.”
These days a top priority for Walmart.com.br is building more fulfillment capacity, he says. Currently Walmart.com.br has three distribution facilities including two in the state of Minas Gerais and another in Sao Paulo. All three are operated by commercial logistics providers. But Walmart.com.br early this year opened its first dedicated e-commerce fulfillment center in Cajamar, a city near São Paulo. Walmart.com.br also plans to open two more company owned e-commerce fulfillment centers in southern and northeastern Brazil. “We are still negotiating contracts,” Dias says. The northeastern facility will open within the next six months and the southern fulfillment hub will open in 2015. Another national fulfillment hub also is planned for 2015.
In the U.S. Wal-Mart makes its big base of 4,600 Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores a key part of its e-commerce strategy, allowing shoppers buy online and pick up in store and to return web purchases to a store. But in Brazil Wal-Mart is expanding its fulfillment hubs because stores aren’t quite ready to be integrated into e-commerce. Wal-Mart has 556 stores in Brazil. But those locations include stores built by nine retailing companies Wal-Mart has acquired over time, and the technology they use varies considerably. “The reality is we have nine different brands in Brazil,” Dias says. “We are still working on finalizing systems integration.”
Walmart.com.br is investing to expedite delivery of online orders across Brazil. “We are building out to support our rapid growth,” Dias says. “We are accelerating our investment in talent, technology and logistics.”
Another area of its operation Walmart.com.br is expanding is its online inventory. In just six years the number of items available online has increased from 10,000 SKUs in 2008 to a current inventory of around 250,000 SKUs. In recent months the site has added new product categories such as beauty, fashion, hair care and wine.
A lot of the added inventory is available on a new marketplace Walmart.com.br opened in 2013. The retailer isn’t releasing marketplace sales and other metrics. But the marketplace will enable Walmart.com.br to grow its total online inventory to more than 2 million SKUs by the end of the year. The new marketplace also is able to take advantage of Wal-Mart’s large global supply chain in order to bring in more well-known consumer brands from the U.S. and elsewhere, Dias says. “We intend to double the marketplace,” he says. “The sale of the imported items on the site has grown by more than 400%.
The past year has been a big period of change for Walmart.br as it looks to gain major e-commerce market share in Brazil, Dias says. In March 2013 the company began a complete web site redesign that was quietly launched last fall and tested before the big rush in late November of online Christmas shopping. The redesigned site features faster search, quicker checkout, streamlined product pages and faster overall performance. The new site and e-commerce platform launched in October.
Besides trying to make its e-retail site more appealing, Wal-Mart aims to offer a bigger inventory and lower prices than competitors, Dias says. Online retailing in Brazil is only 15 years old and there’s still plenty of room for growth and to build a dominant brand, Dias says. “We are passionate about being number one, because no one is dominant,” he says. “We will continue to invest in the company experience.”