Is Walmart’s collaboration with Lord & Taylor a mistake?

17 : 11 : 2017 Retail : Fashion : Luxury
Adidas for Lord & Taylor, US Adidas for Lord & Taylor, US

Walmart has announced that it will launch a Lord & Taylor flagship store on its website in spring 2018. The digital store will offer consumers access to premium fashion brands from the luxury department store. But given the companies’ differing target audiences, identity and price tag, is their collaboration doomed from the outset?

‘Our goal is to create a premium fashion destination on Walmart.com,’ says Denise Incandela, head of fashion at Walmart. ‘Customers on our website are searching for higher-end items, and we are expanding our business online to focus on adding specialised and premium shopping experiences, starting with fashion.’

For Walmart, the benefits seem clear. According to a study by retail and shopper data insights company Kantar Retail, the average Walmart shopper in 2015 was a white, 50-year-old woman with an annual household income of £40,250 ($53,125, €45,110), around £5,300 ($7,000, €5,900) less than the average annual household income in the US in 2016, according to the US Census Bureau. To broaden its appeal and attract a wealthier and younger demographic, the retail corporation has acquired a number of innovative companies including digital-first menswear website Bonobos, womenswear website ModCloth and Millennial-focused e-commerce website Jet.

Given the current luxury climate, it seems a logical step. In our Luxury Futures Report 2017, we explored how Millennials are shaping the luxury sector. According to a study conducted by Farfetch and Bain & Co, Millennials will represent 40% of the global personal luxury goods market by 2025, while Hitwise estimates that half of all website traffic to luxury brands Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Burberry is driven by aspiring Millennials.

But while the introduction of Lord & Taylor’s designer products will surely help Walmart to capture the attention of luxury consumers, is a partnership with a struggling, old-fashioned department store really going to do it any favours in terms of engaging with Millennials whose definition of luxury is very different to that of their forebears.

In our Digital Store Fronts microtrend, we examined how brands are working to replicate the experiential element of shopping in a physical store online to push digital retail forward. As part of the collaboration, Walmart has announced that it will launch a ‘specialised online experience’. While it has yet to reveal any specific details, it may well be the collaboration’s saving grace.

Walmart would do well to take a page from the Digital Store Fronts handbook and move past using a wireframe visual guide in its website design – something consumers are well-acquainted with. ‘User experience is the new salesperson and customer support,’ explains Jonathan Cherki, founder and CEO of UX analytics firm ContentSquare. ‘Gone are the days of a one-size-fits-all user experience. In the future, user experience will be the new brand.’

Walmart’s forthcoming ‘specialised online experience’ should fuse together soundscapes, visuals and motion graphics to replicate the multisensory nature of shopping in an experiential bricks-and-mortar retail emporiums. This would enable it to move closer towards its aim of engaging an affluent, younger demographic, and also breathe new life into Lord & Taylor’s offering.