As the head of Walmart’s e-commerce division, Neil Ashe oversees the sale of a lot of smartphones. But there’s one device he’s not selling.
“Is anybody selling the Fire phone?” he said in response to a question on stage at today’s GeekWire Summit in Seattle, drawing a handful of laughs and a healthy crop of boos. “I guess, the more important question would be is anybody buying the Fire phone?”
Despite the boos, earlier in the day, nobody in the audience here at the Westin stood up with one of Amazon’s new smartphones when asked to show off what smartphone they were carrying.
Ashe, the CEO of Global E-Commerce for Walmart, is leading the online charge for one of Amazon’s largest competitors in the commerce space. When asked about how small Walmart’s e-commerce business is compared with Amazon’s, Ashe said that he didn’t consider the chunk of the company he oversees to be separate from its physical retail operations. Moreover, he said that the future of retail won’t be online-only or only in stores.
“What’s interesting about the general conversation about the future of commerce is that it’s a conversation of ‘or,'” Ashe said. “Are you buying online, or are you walking into the store?” He disagreed with that sentiment, arguing that consumers buy where it’s most convenient, either online or in retail.
Walmart reported $10 billion in e-commerce sales during its 2014 fiscal year, and projected a 25 percent increase over that for its 2015 fiscal year.
In Ashe’s view, all of that boils down to a simple bottom line.
“We want you to shop at Walmart because we want you to trust Walmart and Walmart can serve you better than anyone else,” he said.