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Near Its 52-Week High, Where Does Walmart Go From Here?

By Chad Henage – Updated Nov 24, 2021 at 1:03PM

Key Points

  • Walmart's ecommerce business gets a lot of press, selling this business as a service is a new growth strategy.
  • With 90% of U.S. customers within 10 miles of a Walmart, the company's logistics business sold as a service is a smart move.
  • Walmart is investing in the future of retail and the shares appear fairly valued.

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Walmart has been proving doubters wrong for years. By expanding its revenue streams beyond the store, the company hopes to keep up its hot streak.

Walmart (WMT -1.04%) has been a fantastic performer for investors over the last five years, with shares more than doubling  Each time an article suggests Walmart is going the way of the dinosaur, the company proves doubters wrong. Now, the megaretailer's management is pointing investors toward two future growth pillars that it hopes will help it keep up the stock's hot streak.

Lets get physical

Walmart has transformed from a brick-and-mortar set of stores to an omnichannel retailer. Through a partnership with Adobe (NASDAQ: ADBE), Walmart wants to market its e-commerce technology to other businesses as a service. Though Shopify (NYSE: SHOP) is arguably one of the most successful e-commerce platforms, Walmart has something that Shopify doesn't: physical stores. 

Young woman using her mobile phone and credit card to order online. Also shows a delivery box

Image source: Getty Images.

Walmart employees already deal with curbside pickup, in-store pickup, communicating with customers about when an order will be ready, handling substitutions, and more. Walmart's e-commerce solution will allow small and medium-sized retailers to offer these same services at Walmart's own locations. By contrast, Shopify's help page about pickup for online orders is comprised of six short paragraphs of information.

According to Statista, worldwide e-commerce sales for 2021 may exceed $4 trillion. With the ongoing shift toward e-commerce, small and medium-sized businesses don't just need an online storefront, they need a complete solution. Walmart is selling the platform and tools that its thousands of stores use daily, and offers the practical advice of how to integrate in-store sales, with online orders.

In addition, retailers that choose Walmart's e-commerce platform can also sell their products through Walmart Marketplace on Walmart.com. As of last year, Walmart's Marketplace supported goods sold by about 70,000 third-party sellers. By the middle of 2021, Marketplace third-party sellers topped 100,000. Walmart must continue to expand its Marketplace offerings in its ongoing battle to match Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN), which boasted many as 1.5 million active third-party sellers at last count.

Walmart aims to combine Shopify's e-commerce solutions with the aggregation of Amazon's Marketplace. According to research from IDC, the content and commerce software market is worth about $44 billion. In Shopify's most recent quarter, the company's adjusted operating margin exceeded 12%. Since Walmart relies heavily on its physical stores, the retailer's operating margin last quarter was just over 4%.

Though Walmart's offering isn't expected to go live until early 2022, that is just a few months away. If Walmart only manages to capture 10% of this market, that $4.4 billion in high-margin business would represent a significant win for Walmart and shareholders.

3,000 advantages

The second growth pillar aiming to drive Walmart's future revenue and earnings is offering its logistics business as a service called GoLocal. This service will allow businesses of all sizes to gain access to Walmart's vast delivery network -- while still keeping their own branding on their respective packages. Goods delivered by Amazon arrive in Amazon boxes, even if they come from another business. If a retailer just needs last-mile delivery, the ability to promote their brand through their delivery packages could provide them with good reasons to choose Walmart's GoLocal over Amazon.

Walmart spent the last three years turning more than 3,000 of its stores into mini-fulfillment centers. The retailer expects to continue to add modular warehouses within, or as add-ons to additional stores in the future. This investment is important because not only will it allow Walmart to more efficiently deliver its own packages, but it will add more points for GoLocal to deliver from.

The additional revenue GoLocal will generate is difficult to predict, since the service is relatively new. However, GoLocal is off to a strong start: Home Depot (HD -1.97%) has agreed to use the service in certain markets, with plans to expand in the future. Walmart GoLocal has also reported it has entered into agreements with national retail clients, but hasn't been forthcoming with details as to who these retailers are.

GoLocal could also help Walmart spend more efficiently on its supply chain. Over the last six months, Walmart spent nearly $2.5 billion to expand its logistical offerings. The more businesses that sign up for GoLocal, the more information Walmart will collect about what products sell in what parts of the country. This could help Walmart to target the best locations for future fulfillment centers. A new revenue stream that leverages what Walmart already spends on logistics sounds like a win-win for the company and potential investors.

By land or air, Walmart is there

Walmart's e-commerce and logistics as services are just the beginning of the retailers plans to transform its business. The retailer has invested in Cruise  to help develop self-driving delivery vehicles. Walmart is also collaborating with Ford (F -6.11%) and Lyft (LYFT -0.43%) on autonomous delivery. The retailer also has an investment in DroneUp, a nationwide drone delivery company, and has trialed drone delivery of at-home COVID-19 collection kits. In the future, these investments may allow Walmart to offer more efficient delivery options to its own customers and its GoLocal customers.

Walmart's stock seems to offer investors a good value, too. The stock's current-year projected P/E ratio of about 21 is slightly lower than a few quarters ago. However, Walmart is moving forward on growth opportunities that could lead to better revenue and earnings. In short, investors are paying relatively less for the shares, even though the company's prospects seem to be improving. Investors shouldn't be afraid to consider acquiring Walmart stock as the retail giant continues to prove doubters wrong.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Chad Henage owns shares of Amazon. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon and Home Depot. The Motley Fool recommends the following options: long January 2022 $1,920 calls on Amazon and short January 2022 $1,940 calls on Amazon. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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