Adapting to the reality that more and more Black Friday shoppers are buying online, Walmart (WMT) is significantly increasing how much inventory it will sell digitally that day, and is pushing customers to use its mobile app more often.
On a media call Wednesday to discuss Walmart’s Black Friday strategy, executives told reporters that Walmart would increase inventory dedicated to online sales of its Black Friday specials by 50%. That merchandise will be available early morning on Thanksgiving, at one minute after midnight, before being available in stores at 6 p.m.
And on Thursday, some two weeks before Thanksgiving, Walmart began to offer dozens of items that customers can only browse on its mobile shoppers’ app. Walmart is directing as much of its shopping traffic to the app as possible, the better to get customers to register and use it and help Walmart gather better data on shopping habits. The retailer is also trying to get people to use its Walmart Pay mobile wallet app more often. Walmart expects 280 million visits to its shopping app during the November/December holiday season. The items now available for sale on the app include a Hitachi 65-inch 4K Ultra HDTV for $599 and the Xbox One S 500GB Minecraft Console.
Walmart’s focus online, on what is still very much a shopping occasion about stores (the retailer will have separate deals for Cyber Monday), is the logical result of changing shopping patterns. Last year, for the first time, more Americans shopped online than in stores during the Thanksgiving-Black Friday weekend. Last year, Walmart had a ho-hum holiday quarter, with comparable sales up a modest 0.6%.
While many retailers are being careful about over-ordering, lest they get stuck with unsold merchandise, Walmart says it’s more important not to disappoint shoppers. “We really pride ourselves on not being the retailer that advertises a great price but then only has a few available,” Walmart U.S. Chief Merchant Steve Bratspies told the reporters.
The move comes as Walmart’s customer service scores continue to rise, thanks to efforts to make sure stores are better stocked (and that some workers are better paid). While the Thanksgiving and Black Friday weekend doesn’t necessarily make or break a retailer’s holiday season, it is crucial to get off on the right foot and entice shoppers to come back time and again, particularly during the last weekend before Christmas, which is a far bigger generator of sales than Black Friday.
Walmart is bringing back the use of wristbands for top-selling items. Walmart hands out as many wristbands as it has the number of those items available. That allows customers to do other shopping for up to two hours before picking up the hot product, and has helped avoid the stampedes of years ago in stores.
“Our playbook for Black Friday works and we’re going to continue to build on that success,” said Bratspies. At the same time, he rejected the notion that the buzz of Black Friday has been dulled by the earlier start to deals. “I don’t think we’re seeing less excitement about Black Friday at all,” he said.
One thing Walmart is not bringing back is its one-hour guarantee on a few key items, where stores that ran out of those products before 7 p.m. on Thanksgiving would then order and ship them to customers who missed out.
Here is a list of some Walmart Black Friday deals:
Top Black Friday deals in stores as of Thanksgiving at 6 pm and online on Nov. 24 at one minute past midnight:
- 11 Television Models including 4K Ultra HDTVs, such as a Phillips 55-inch Smart 4KTV for $298 and a Samsung 50-inch Smart 4KTV for $398.
- A $99 iPhone 5s 16GB on Straight Talk Wireless ($50 savings).
- 10 Laptops and Tablets including the Samsung Chromebook 3 for $119; HP 15.6-inch Touch Laptop for $249; and iPad Mini 2 32GB for $199.
- A 14-foot Trampoline Combo (includes mini ball and hoop) for $159.
Some Black Friday Deals already available now solely on the Walmart mobile app
- Hitachi 65-inch 4K Ultra HDTV for $599
- Xbox One S 500GB Minecraft Console with Bonus Controller for $279
- 1 Carat T.W. Diamond Sterling Silver Pendant and Earrings for $139
- Lifetime 44-inch Portable Basketball Hoop for $69 (special buy)