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Walmart gets personal to boost online sales

The world's largest retailer is taking the hint from its growing online competition, and this week is unveiling changes to its website. Walmart's (WMT) aim is to further personalize the cyber-shopping experience for its consumers.

The updated "now tailors itself much more to our individual customers," Ben Galbraith, vice president for global products at Walmart Global eCommerce, said in a blog posting on Monday, "personalizing much more of the content than ever before based on many aspects of a customer's history with us."

According to Galbraith, the retooled site has increased the "quality and frequency" of personalized item recommendations for would-be buyers, based on a customer's past searches and purchases. It also suggests items that other customers are buying.

"We're able to deliver much more relevant suggestions because we are now able to draw from the massive trove of data from both online and store purchases," blogged Galbraith.

The revamped website is also more easily accessible across a wide variety of devices, thanks in part to the new e-commerce platform Walmart says it has been working on for the past two years.

Some people would say Walmart is playing catch-up when it comes to online sales, which have been growing in popularity for years. A tipping point of sorts was reached last November, when Gallup reported that for the first time ever, a majority of Americans said they planned to do their holiday shopping online.

According to Reuters, Walmart had online sales of $10 billion last year. That tally made up less than 3 percent of the company's overall revenue. In contrast, Amazon (AMZN) reported online sales of nearly $68 billion in 2013.

No wonder Walmart has acknowledged it must evolve with how its patrons shop.

"Wherever we operate, everything starts with the customer, and I see customers' shopping habits changing more rapidly than I can remember," Walmart International President and CEO David Cheesewright told shareholders during the company's annual meeting this past June.

"Customers are shopping more online, with mobile devices, and they really like convenience," he added. "If our customer changes fast, we have to change even faster if we want to continue to exceed her expectations."

According to Bidness Etc., Walmart plans to increase its online revenues by 30 percent in fiscal 2015. The giant retailer will know soon enough if its new website is clicking on that score.

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