Not the first but one of the biggest: Walmart pushes into IR tech

Apr 19, 2012
<p>A new iPad IR app and one of the first for Android plus a video-heavy annual report</p>

Tablets and smartphones are now as ubiquitous as, well, Walmart stores. Now introducing Walmart’s own investor relations app for iOS and Android.

‘So many people, from individual shareholders to institutional investors and sell-side analysts, are showing up at meetings and conferences with iPads and other tablets,’ says Walmart’s vice president of investor relations, Carol Schumacher. ‘We’ve wanted to do an app for a while.’

Walmart IR app

Walmart this week launched its IR app in conjunction with the materials for its June 1 annual shareholders’ meeting, including a video-laden online annual report for the second year in a row.

The app and online annual are key prongs in Walmart’s push into electronic proxy distribution and voting. Between using notice-and-access and encouraging people to sign up for e-delivery, the retail giant has cut the number of printed annual meeting packages from 2.7 mn to 700,000 over the last five years.

‘The ability to vote online is one of the key messages we want to remind shareholders about. In today’s world, it’s faster, more sustainable and certainly less expensive than voting by paper,’ Schumacher says, pointing to the way online proxy voting and e-delivery are both highlighted on the opening screen of the new app.

Walmart’s annual meeting is a bigger deal than most companies’. More than 15,000 people are expected for the event at the Bud Walton Arena at the University of Arkansas. They’ll also be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the opening of Sam Walton’s first Walmart store.

Last year Walmart produced its first online annual report with videos of some key executives. For 2012 CEO Mike Duke gave the team a personal challenge: step it up. ‘He knows our objective is to have enough meat on the website to drive people to electronic viewing rather than paper,’ Schumacher says.

This IRO seems to have handily added producer and director to her list of responsibilities. She had her subjects talk directly into the camera so viewers feel like they’re being addressed personally, and rather than rehash last year’s results, she had them talk about where Walmart is going.

The videos were unscripted so the executives would look more natural, with Schumacher interviewing from behind the camera for about 15 minutes each. That footage was then edited with B-roll to create brief finished videos.

While Atlanta-based Corporate Reports handled the report’s design, as it has done for the last six years’ of print annual reports, Walmart put together the online version using its own TV studio and production crew at its Arkansas headquarters.

The online annual goes hand in hand with Walmart’s global responsibility report, which Corporate Reports designed as both print and online versions. At around 120 pages, only 3,000 copies were printed for the investment community with most people pushed toward reading on screen.

Walmart considered various developers for its IR app but stuck with Corporate Reports for that as well. The plan is to have several updates during the year, focusing on financial news and other developments as they transpire.

Next up for Walmart’s IR team: the frontier of social media. Walmart as a whole is a prolific social media user, and there is some financial communications tweeting from the company already, like from corporate communications director Greg Rossiter (@gregrossiter). And last week at during an international analyst day in Toronto, one of Walmart’s other corporate affairs staff tweeted. 

‘It’s something we’re looking at. Right now it’s an issue of resources. I think it’s something we’ll look to add later in the year,’ Schumacher says of the prospect of the IR team using Twitter. 

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