As Walmart rebrands as Silicon Valley tech, who could be next?
Last week, Walmart (NYSE:WMT) made waves after, very publicly, re-billing itself as a tech company at this year’s SXSW event. At the Austin conference, Walmart’s Chief Technology Officer introduced Walmart innovations such as virtual reality headsets and machine learning robots, all designed to move online grocery orders as quickly as possible to customers. While these technologies are comparable with innovations that e-commerce giants such as Alibaba (NYSE:BABA) and Amazon (NYSE:AMZN) are also working on, what lends them credibility is how far the company has gone to pivot its revenue stream to digital. Walmart’s e-commerce sales surged 43% last quarter, and recently overtook Apple as the No. 3 online retailer in the United States.
While its sales revenue still dwarfs Amazon’s, Walmart is dead serious about digitization, having purchased online e-tailers such as Jet.com, Art.com, Bare Necessities, and Eloquii, meanwhile growing its online business. There are benefits to this rebranding. Having investors perceive you as a “Silicon Valley-style technology company” subjects your company to a much different valuation, which could lead to exponential growth, for both profits and share prices. While it’s too early to tell if Walmart can ultimately pull this off, the retail conglomerate is already well on its way.
It comes as no surprise then that many traditional blue chips are now attempting to do the same thing. Leading the way is Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F), which is aggressively trying to relabel itself as a tech company — though it can be argued that any car manufacturer is doing the same thing. Ford, however, is finding some success in convincing the public that it’s now a “mobility” company, having shoveled a ton of resources towards new tech initiatives around transporting people.
As part this mobility program, Ford bought out Spin, a dockless electric scooter startup, a microtransit service called Chariot and several more transportation software companies. It’s also particularly vocal about an autonomous future, and has stated publicly that it wants to sell commercial self-driving cars by 2021, investing $1-billion in an AI startup called Argo AI, building its own facility in Miami to test research vehicles powered by Argo’s autonomous technologies. Ford also recently tested a fleet of self-driving delivery cars with Domino’s Pizza (NYSE:DPZ).
Speaking of Domino’s, the Michigan-based pizza chain has managed to successfully disrupt its own business model, moving away from its traditional brick-and-mortar retail model towards offering its customers multiple ways to digitally order their pizza. That strategy has paid off, and now, Domino’s makes up to two-thirds of its US sales from digital ordering channels. While that’s a far cry from being a Silicon Valley player, Domino’s is now the world’s largest pizza seller.
Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, has asserted that his bank is a tech company, claiming that it employs more developers and engineers than it does traders and bankers, and more than Silicon Valley majors such as Twitter and LinkedIn. Boeing (NYSE:BA) is also attempting to revamp its image as a traditional jet maker and defense contractor by spending massively on new aviation and aerospace technologies, 3D printing, and NASA research. It recently allocated all capital saved from the recent US tax cuts on research and staff, and its venture fund Horizon X has been aggressively financing new tech startups.
Of course, these initiatives don’t always work out, and digitization efforts as often fall flat. General Electric (NYSE:GE), for instance, has been trying to pivot towards tech for years, but was eventually forced to spin off its software business, GE Digital. The day the spinoff was announced, the stock rose 7%.
Featured Image: Depositphotos © wolterke