Bringing Products to International Markets with former Walmart Sr. PM

This week our #AskMeAnything session welcomed Samuel Martínez, former Senior Product Manager at Walmart, to talk about Product Management inside Walmart, how to go international, and some tips and tricks for beginner PMs.

Samuel Martínez is currently a Sr. PM at Globant, and before this, he was a Sr. PM at Walmart. Some of Samuel’s specialties include eCommerce management, online retail design, and product delivery. The types of products Samuel manages range from catalog products to financial services. He has managed major retail structures such as an online eCommerce platform for Walmart.

With a substantial degree in business administration, he has laid the groundwork for his career in product development. Samuel has been noted as a major contributor to logistic diagnostic services and financial diagnostic services for Walmart. He has worked as an analyst for Walmart’s Latin division of business distribution and for the past 7 months, he’s been leading a team of 7 people that are developing applications for mobile devices at Walmart Mexico.

Walmart Product Management – Going International

A couple of years ago, there was a huge change in Walmart’s online strategy to compete with Amazon. How did that come about? How did you define UX strategy and user engagement?

Correct! it was a huge change in the company when the eCommerce wave came in worldwide. Basically, Amazon created a new massive way to do business for retailers. The key for Walmart in order to compete with Amazon I think, was three points.

1. The customer journey, ensure the interface to be intuitive and easy, always thinking about making the conversion very very simple for the customer.

2. Catalog, the customers always expect to find what they like or they will go to other places, also, you have to keep a competitive price.

3. Logistics, Amazon next day delivery was an amazing capability for the customers and Walmart had to compete with that.

What metrics do you use to measure product success at Walmart?

First of all, it depends on the product, some products are more sellable just because of their nature. So is not just a matter of units sold or income, it’s also about the journey of the customer and the conversion rate to know if not only your product is good but also if your platform has good usability.

What strategies do you have to ensure your products are designed to be used by customers of all abilities?

We have a UX/UI team that create mocks and these mocks are tested for usability as a POC, from there we measure if anything needs to be enhanced.

The US App works with devices like Alexa and googles home for visually impaired people and we should be releasing that capability for other markets in the future.

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What challenges do you face in expanding the mobile experience to other countries? What are some PM strategies that have helped you in the international space?

For us what has worked is the fact that we maintain a centralized backbone to explore the advantages of a company like Walmart. But also to adapt details to the culture that you are entering. It’s always a good idea to do some benchmarking and do some research with local people to get better insights.

Do you ever outsource any aspects of product management? If so, what kinds of engagements do you do?

No, we don’t outsource any aspect of product. From my personal perspective, it is not recommended because Product Management is a very strategic position/role and if you outsource you have the risk of that knowledge getting lost.

Does Walmart have any program to help new grads take up Product Management roles?

Walmart has programs for new grads and also internships but not per se for Product Management. The programs are more focused on business departments.

What have you used in the past (and today) to identify target profiles for upselling existing add-on product lines? What are some methods you’ve used to drive adoption from your existing customer base?

To identify your target customer, a good technique is the “persona” method which basically is where you imagine who is going to be your consumer, along with a multidisciplinary team, to give you insights from their perspective.

For upselling, basically you have to segment you costumers in order to create types of costumer which will help you create more narrow strategies for each type of customer.

What are the different PM skills needed when building a 0 to 1 product versus building a 1 to N product?

Well, I’ll have to say that when you are building a product for the general public, you have to think in an easy-to-use interface, intuitive, think in the customer journey and be specific to the target audience you are willing to reach.

How is Walmart in Mexico different in operations and development? Is it decentralized or configuration based to support multiple languages and inventory?

Some parts of the platform are centralized in the US, but Mexico’s site is independent of the one in the US. They are working on the unification of teams and efforts though.

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What methods are used (qualitative/quantitative) to identify customer needs before the product is built?

Quantitative is conversion rate, click through rate, the common rates of an eCommerce product. I think that what makes the difference is qualitative research because you can approach the customer and understand what they are looking for.

When I was working on a logistics product I had to actually go to the fulfillment center to learn the process and the needs of that team.

Do you have any tips around road mapping, especially when some of the needs you are looking at are ambiguous / not validated?

Yes! First try to understand the overall goal of the product, this way you will have a logic path to follow when you start figuring out the features. Try to understand in a high/mid-level the function of each part and try to put them in the order that will make more sense for the goal.

From there you can host a brainstorming session with all the teams involved to get the roadmap. From there, there is more tech analysis to understand the complexity of building that product. If the team still does not have a clear picture of what they have to do, you’ll have to assign analysis tasks so the team can dedicate time to do research.

Product Management Tips & Tricks

How should a Product Manager measure his/her success?

The easiest way is through financials, but it’s not always about money, you can track customer satisfaction, cost reduction, peers perception and also work efficiency (that you have delivered).

Your success is tied to the impact that your product is creating, so if you always keep in mind the benefit to the end user or costumer, you will always have good results.

What are the major areas you look into when hiring new PMs?

I’ll say that analytical, thinking out of the box, initiative, and always having the customer in mind are must-have traits.

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Which areas of Product Management do you think are most important to master first?

For me it’s the business strategy, all the products that we deliver must have a strategy or a goal and from there you can create multiple solutions depending on the problem/need you’re trying to tackle, so always keep in mind the big picture, it is easy to say, but also easy to get lost in the daily operations.

How would you advise somebody with no coding experience to effectively move into a PM role? What are some of the must do’s which could be put into daily practice at work?

I’m a person that thinks that it’s not needed to have tech skills to be in product but it definitively helps. If you have identified that as an improvement area, you should stay close to the tech team so you can validate constantly with them and with time, you’ll learn a lot of the tech/code they are using.

What tips or tools do you use to make sure your team works productively and efficiently?

We work using Scrum, so it’s a matter of keeping track of work with the dailies in each sprint. After a few sprints, you’ll get to know the capacity of your team in order to be more effective when planning the next ones and also to prioritize your backlog.

Being in touch always with all the team, not only the customer, is key to building a good relationship with them and this will help to create better products.

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