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Wal-Mart is finally bringing in an online specialist in the hopes of reversing years of losses to Amazon.Neil Ashe is the retailer’s new president and CEO of global ecommerce. He’s been advising startups like LivingSocial since he left CBS Interactive, where he led all of its online properties.
He replaces Eduardo Castro-Wright, a company insider who ended up in e-commerce only after getting demoted from his job as head of U.S. stores. Castro-Wright has operated with reduced authority since August, when Wal-Mart announced a reorganization that put heads of stores in developed countries in charge of their internet business, reports the WSJ.
The retailer explained why it chose Ashe in its press release yesterday:
As president of CBS Interactive, based in San Francisco, Ashe led the interactive content business with operations in the U.S., Europe and China. After leading the successful integration of CNET Networks with CBS, he and his team leveraged existing company assets to ramp up CBS entertainment content distribution online, including making CBS.com the largest television network site in the industry.
Prior to this, Ashe was CEO of CNET Networks, initially best known for providing technology-related information, product reviews and price comparisons through CNET.com. He also oversaw dramatic development in the company’s China division, taking it from a small magazine and events operator to a highly profitable, fast-growing online business. During his tenure, the company’s value increased from $100 million to $1.8 billion. Ultimately, Ashe led the sale of the company to CBS and became president of CBS Interactive at that time.
Walmart is 10 times bigger than Amazon but has only one-tenth of Amazon’s online sales. Wal-Mart been making some small acquisitions of mobile startups, but its biggest move was last April, when it acquired social media platform Kosmix for $300 million.
While Wal-Mart has a long way to go to compete against Amazon, getting the right talent on board is the first step. And there’s no denying that Wal-Mart has to move aggressively online if it’s going to keep up with its other competitors, like Target and JC Penney, which are developing more sophisticated online strategies.