How Walmart is using its size and scale as a force for good: Insights from William White, chief marketing officer

William White
William White, chief marketing officer, Walmart

Throughout the challenges of this past year, businesses have embraced new ways to support customers and communities. At a time when corporations are expected to address societal issues, companies have been pushed to think beyond conducting “business as usual” to help people deal with significant challenges.

Last week, the W2O Center for Social Commerce at Newhouse welcomed keynote speaker William White, chief marketing officer at Walmart, to share how America’s largest retailer has leveraged its platform to serve as a force for good, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

White shared how he and his team adopted and accelerated ideas to meet the needs of customers across the country during an unprecedented time. We highlighted a few key areas White touched on, including:

Accelerating online presence for a digital market

As a company dedicated to helping its customers “Live Better,” Walmart quickly mobilized to ensure the shopping experience was as safe and seamless as possible, White explained. Amid rising fears surrounding in-store shopping, White said, Walmart expanded its e-commerce experience, leveraging its locations throughout the U.S. as shipment hubs for fast and convenient shopping whether customers visit a store or shop online.

Along with increasing its online presence, White said, the company also catalyzed the launch of Walmart+, a subscription service that allows users to purchase items online and receive perks while doing so. The team recognized they needed to continue to meet customers where they are, wherever they are, which meant expanding this efficient delivery service, according to White. “When life got more complicated than ever, we showed up,” said White.

A community-centered approach

The role that Walmart plays in communities extends far beyond getting consumers the items they need; the national brand prioritizes providing its customers with small moments of togetherness through local events and community gatherings, said White. For example, Walmart transformed its parking lots into free, socially distanced drive-in movie events where families could safely gather.

White also shared that the Black Lives Matter movement inspired the company to expand its focus on addressing racial inequities. Walmart and the Walmart Foundation dedicated over $100 million to promote racial equality in finance, healthcare, education and the criminal justice system. The Walmart team also strengthened its focus on ensuring an inclusive and equitable culture for all employees, ensuring customers can see themselves represented throughout all parts of the organization, said White.

Prioritizing healthcare accessibility/convenience

Walmart also took significant steps in the fight against COVID-19 to ensure the safety of employees and customers. In addition to implementing new safety protocols in all Walmart stores and utilizing Walmart Health Centers to provide health services for customers, Walmart partnered with federal and local government agencies to stand up more than 500 COVID-19 testing clinics and is now distributing vaccinations to community members and employees around the U.S., according to White. Walmart continues to work alongside local groups to reach vulnerable communities to improve vaccine confidence and accessibility for all.

“It’s especially important to educate our associates and customers when they become eligible for the vaccine,” said White. Walmart has collaborated with the Ad Council to support its vaccination campaign, “It’s Up to You,” in an effort to reach as many people as possible to educate about the importance of getting vaccinated.

According to White, the backbone of all Walmart initiatives shares one common goal: to provide value for its communities. And, throughout the pandemic, Walmart’s mission to save people money so they can live better has become even more salient in ensuring communities have continued access to necessary goods as well as togetherness experiences both at home and online.

At a time when corporations are being challenged like never before to step up on social, political, and global health issues, Walmart is using its footprint and reach to reset its priorities and strengthen impact on the people and communities that personify its mission.

To see tweets from the event, follow @SocCommSU and check out the hashtag #SocCommDays.

The W2O Center for Social Commerce wants to extend our sincere thank you to William White for sharing his expertise with Syracuse University students, ensuring the W2O Center for Social Commerce can continue to connect students with industry leaders and prepare them to be “day one” ready for their careers, even in a virtual environment.

Written by W2O Center for Social Commerce ambassadors:
Francesca Sailer, senior dual public relations and marketing management major;

Regan Talley, senior public relations major.

Karley Warden, senior dual public relations and political science major.