Wal-Mart Launches Revamped Site

Just weeks after forming an alliance with America Online, retail behemoth Wal-Mart Stores unveiled its revamped Web site on the first day of the new year.

Wal-Mart and AOL announced a wide-ranging strategic alliance on December 16th, which included a new co-branded online service and numerous cross-marketing initiatives between the two companies.

That announcement came one day after AOL entered a marketing alliance with electronics retail giant Circuit City and Kmart entered into a similar alliance with giant Web portal Yahoo!.

Offering Hotel And Car Rentals

According to the Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart, the newly launched site will feature about 600,000 products in new or expanded categories such as appliances, automotive products, pet supplies, baby items and health and beauty aids.

The site will also provide travelers with online air, hotel and car rental services. Additionally, Wal-Mart customers who drop off film at one of its brick-and-mortar locations can opt to have the photos posted on the Internet and share their password with friends and relatives.

By the end of the year, Wal-Mart also expects to offer online pharmacy services.

Linking Site To Stores

Wal-Mart officials explained that the new site will be linked to its stores throughout the country, allowing any online purchases to be returned offline.

The retailer will also promote its renewed online presence by testing about 60 store kiosks that will allow customers to compare the in-store selection with the extensive online offerings.

In addition, Wal-Mart plans to begin using e-mail to notify its customers about specials at stores in their areas.

Revamp Slow In Coming

Earlier this fall, industry analysts had speculated that Wal-Mart would launch its new site in time for the holiday season. However, company officials declared that it was more important to be “right than fast.”

Still, Wal-Mart’s former site ranked as one of the top 15 fastest gainers in traffic in November, according to research firm Media Metrix.

Wal-Mart said it chose January 1st as its re-launch date because it liked the idea of starting with a new year.

In the first 30 minutes, the revamped site reportedly had about 15,000 visitors — 50 percent more than Wal-Mart officials had anticipated.

Industry observers have also predicted in the past that a strong Wal-Mart presence in cyberspace could threaten e-commerce giant Amazon.com — because of Wal-Mart’s ubiquitous brick-and-mortar presence.

Nonetheless, Bill Curry, a spokesman for Amazon.com, reportedly said that the online merchant is not worried about Wal-Mart.

“We’re worried about taking care of the consumer, not any rival,” he said.

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