It's hard to find two companies more synonymous with America than Walmart and McDonald's. Both have become symbols of American capitalism while expanding their presence enormously across the country.
And, as the modern retail climate continues to evolve, both companies have adopted a new way of thinking that has led to success.
A few years ago, Walmart found itself in a bit of a rut. Online challengers threatened its low-price stranglehold, and sales growth started to falter.
Walmart responded by reorienting its business around the changing tastes of consumers, with new initiatives designed to make it easier for customers to shop at their stores or online. Many of the retailer's newest initiatives, like dedicated grocery pickup locations and free two-day delivery with every $35 purchase online, are zeroed in on convenience and play to Walmart's strengths, like fresh food selection and low prices.
It seems to have worked. Store traffic has gone up for 12 consecutive quarters, and online sales had exploded by the end of 2017. America's largest retailer is on a roll, and it's showing no signs of stopping.
A similar story can be found at McDonald's. After years of slumping sales, in 2015 the fast-food chain finally introduced all-day breakfast, something customers had been clamoring for for decades.
That started a trend of the chain listening to what customers wanted — and responding. Budget shoppers were looking for new value options after McDonald's killed its dollar menu. The company responded with its McPick 2 deal, a popular buy-one-get-one-free promotion.
Customers were also looking for a Chicken Selects replacement after the popular item was pulled from the menu in 2013. McDonald's recently introduced its Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Tenders, an almost exact substitution — except that they tasted better than the original, and they received rave reviews. Customer response was strong, and restaurants actually ran out of the hit menu item going into the new year.
McDonald's has also introduced mobile ordering, partnered with Uber Eats for delivery, and modernized its stores across the country.
That string of success has proved to be a turnaround. As of late last year, McDonald's reported its third quarter of comparable sales growth in the US. Same-store sales have gone up 5.4% in the US over the last two years, according to UBS.