Walmart (WMT) announced the creation of a new c-suite role, chief customer officer, a top-level position aimed at making sure its digital business and stores business are in lock-step as it looks to compete with Amazon.com.
The company said on Monday that Janey Whiteside would start in the newly created CCO role on Aug. 1, calling the job a “step change” for Walmart and one aimed at “keeping the customer at the center” of all its operations. Whiteside, a longtime veteran of American Express, (AXP) will be in charge of Walmart’s efforts to win new shoppers and make sure the expansion of e-commerce does not create new frictions for customers.
While retailers and other customer-facing companies have long said customers are at the epicenter of their strategy to the point that it can be a platitude, many corporations have silos that can impede different parts of a company from playing nicely together. That has paved the way for the emergence of the CCO role at more companies in the tech, retail, and consumer goods industries notably. According to the CCO Council, there are some 500 U.S. companies with a CCO now, compared to 20 in 2003.
Walmart has made great strides in making sure e-commerce and stores work in tandem, investing billions into making sure customers can easily pick up online order at stores, use any store to fill an e-commerce order, and beef up mobile shopping apps. And it’s paying off: in its most recent quarter, Walmart’s U.S. e-commerce sales rose 33% even as more shoppers visited stores.
But Walmart wants to deepen that interconnectedness thanks to the new CCO role. “We know when we put customers first, we win,” the company said in a blog post. Whiteside will report to both Marc Lore, the CEO of Walmart’s U.S. e-commerce, and Greg Foran, CEO of Walmart U.S., in a sign of how important her role is in integrating the two sides of the business.
Beyond offering customers more advance e-commerce options, Walmart has in recent years given store workers raises in an effort to improve what had been weaker customer service scores and remodeled many stores.
Adding the CCO job has worked at other retailers. Kohl’s new CEO, Michelle Gass, started as CCO five years ago when she joined the company in what was then a new role. Since then Kohl’s has quickly built up its e-commerce firepower and seen store visit declines finally reverse themselves. Other companies with a CCO include J.C. Penney (JCP).