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Walmart is a multinational retail corporation with chains of hypermarkets, discount departmental stores, and grocery stores. It is a company that commenced operation from the United States of America, but has since grown; having about 11, 718 stores in over 28 countries under 59 different brand names. It is headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas in the United States of America. It has in its employment about 2. 3 million employees cut across all its locations. It is a company that has over the years evolved in all aspects in order to keep itself at the forefront of the industry. This has made it the world’s largest company by revenue; with over US $500 billion, according to Fortune Global 500 list. Walmart has a policy of locating its stores close to or within miles of the population where said stores are located.
As part of its overall strategy of continuous innovation; Walmart has set out to become a player in the healthcare sector (new market). In its bid to become a player (number one provider) in the healthcare sector or segment; Walmart decided the best strategy to apply to give it an advantage over existing players, was to tackle the issue of the high cost in products and services in the healthcare sector currently plaguing the sector and patients in their bid to live healthier. It launched a program tagged” $4 Prescription Program” in 2006. Since this was a new market, they were entering, Walmart’s initial strategy (emergent strategy) was to focus on providing the same products and services at a cheaper rate (for low income and aged citizens/customers) to help ease the strain caused by the high costs of said healthcare products and services, i. e. against the usual backdrop of high cost for health care that was already prevalent in the industry. It based its strategy on three key factors namely
These insights acquired from its initial rollout with above (emergent) strategy is used by management to plan on what and where to stock up on products, as some products (services) sold better than others at certain locations. This leads to it being deliberate (strategy) on what sort of products (to purchase) and services to offer at certain locations, time (season) etc. for better management of its resources (human and financial) such that it increases its gross profit margins. Walmart had a unique advantage which they used to, their advantage; they capitalized on the high number of walk-in customers and provided a unique solution such as screening examinations through its subsidiary Walmart care Clinics (separate entity from its existing structure that focused on disruptive innovation in the healthcare sector); while the existing stores applied a sustaining innovation through said subsidiary i. e. the stores had other services (health care) customers could come in for which will likely lead to said customers patronizing it for its core offerings. This allowed it to become an efficient machine with a symbiotic relationship between each entity.
As part of its strategy with respect to providing healthcare products and services at the lowest cost to its customers, with respect to growth, and deepening its reach; Walmart has to improve on existing structure and also develop and implement new strategies; decision makers and management, in general, has to change (improve) its strategy to inculcate acquisitions, mergers, and partnerships with certain players focused on providing certain specialized functions in the healthcare ecosystem. Services such as:
Care should be taken with respect to this service, i. e. this should be focused on certain ailments that can be handled without physical extermination so as to avoid wrong diagnosis, death or other medical complications and legal issues. Though Walmart to an extent has achieved its set out strategy; care should be taken as it grows; Walmart should as a matter of fact; be specific with respect to healthcare products and services in its offering; as some, especially on the insurance side (proposed above), could lead to a reduction in its gross profit margin when there are complications. A decision with respect to the strategy to approach this can be arrived at by studying existing players in the healthcare insurance business and learning from their mistakes, this service can be rolled out for health care ailment or issues that still positively adds to its profit margin.
The issue of being a generalist (based on its strategy on low cost for healthcare products and services) has to be reviewed too; from case studies of organizations whose strategies were focused on being generalist during this course, one can say that this strategy does not always help in the long run as other individuals can come in and take advantage of gaps and loopholes. Walmart has to approach health care with a modular mindset and strategy as it grows; always looking at the bottom line and not being sentimental in its decision-making process.
One would advise that Walmart focuses on using its extensive reach/spread (locations) to provide a platform (becoming an infrastructure player) through which specialized healthcare providers can reach patients. Standards with respect to expectations of/from all service providers should be well planned and laid out while allowing multiple players in the same space, e. g. different consultants offering the same telemedicine services on different days, thereby positioning the customer as the decision-making entity. This can still achieve its set impact of helping to reduce cost while bringing healthcare products and services closer to its customers; while ensuring it remains the number player in the healthcare sector.
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