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Walmart Supplier Glossary: Omnichannel

OmnichannelWalmart actually uses the term “Always On Shopper,” but “omnichannel” is a sufficiently popular buzzword that it gets thrown around in meetings and at conferences, and a lot of suppliers are quietly wondering what the heck it means.

“Omni” means “all,” so “omnichannel” is literally “all channel.” The channels in question are the channels shoppers use to get product information and to shop.

These used to include things like the retailer’s shelf, the product package, word of mouth, and TV or print ads.

Now, there are many more options. People still find out about new products through word of mouth, but that now includes, Facebook, YouTube, and Amazon reviews. Legacy media like TV and magazines still excite interest in products, but so do blogs and Pinterest. And people still read the package label, but they also visit your brand website and use apps on their phone — even when they’re in the store.

What’s more, shoppers who aren’t satisfied with their options in the store aisle will shop on their smartphones instead… possibly while they’re still in the aisle.

Suppliers have known for years about the First Moment of Truth and the Second Moment of Truth, but now the Zero Moment of Truth is actually more important. That’s the moment — after 5-12 contacts with your message, which may have taken place on a number of different screens as well as in the store — when the consumer decides to buy your product. He may never have seen your product in the flesh, as it were, and he probably doesn’t care much where he buys it unless some retailer has given him a very strong incentive to care. But he’s going to buy it.

That means that any supplier who isn’t getting messages to that consumer before the Zero Moment of Truth is missing out. The consumer will, at the Zero Moment of Truth, make the decision to buy the competitor’s product instead.

So suppliers now must take an omnichannel approach, using online messages including mobile as well as legacy media and in-store experiences. Find out how to get started with our free Omnichannel Ebook.

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Retail Link Training in NYC

NYCNew York City Retail Link and supplier development training — with Bentonville experts. It’s the perfect combination, and 8th & Walton, the nation’s top Retail Link training company, is bringing five of our most popular classes to NYC next month.

Register soon — the classes always fill quickly.

Courses Available in New York City

  • November 10, 2014

SLWM101 – Selling to Walmart.com and Samsclub.com – 1:30pm – 4:30pm – $350

  • November 11, 2014

RLNK101 – Beginning Retail Link® – 9:00am – 5:00pm – $650

  • November 12, 2014

RLNK201 – Intermediate Retail Link® – 9:00am – 5:00pm – $650

  • November 13, 2014

SPLY202 – Replenishment & Inventory Management – 9:00am – 5:00pm – $650

  • November 14, 2014

RLNK212 – Accounting, Invoicing & Deductions – 9:00am – 5:00pm – $650

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Social Media for Walmart Suppliers

Social media is essential for the omnichannel shopper — or inescapable, if social media isn’t high on your list of desirable activities. Manufacturers wouldn’t expect to talk to retailers via Twitter, so you may think that social media isn’t useful for you when you want to sell to Walmart.

However, the empowered consumer often has her mind made up before she even walks into the store. This means that your communication with the end consumer supports your partnership with your retailers.

Get to know the empowered, omnichannel shopper better with our Omnichannel Ebook — a free download from Saturday Morning Meeting.

Social Media Marketing

Conversations about your brands or products or category are happening online. The only question is whether you’re there.

Step 1: Find your customers.

If you sell bras, chances are good that your customers are talking about you on Facebook and Pinterest, not on LinkedIn. Use social listening tools to find your customers and their conversations about your products, and use that information to determine where you should be taking part in the conversation.

Step 2: Craft your message.

People don’t go to social media platforms to see ads, so you can’t just post on your ads on Twitter and call it good. Find out what your customers are interested in, what questions they’re asking, what’s on their minds, and join the conversation. Ryan James of Electronic Arts says that his company’s interactions with their consumers should feel just the same as a knowledgeable sales clerk chatting with a customer in the store. Other companies act like expert advisers, hip big brothers or sisters, or a trusted partner in reaching the customer’s goals.

Step 3: Be a good member of the community.

You’re joining a community. be a good citizen. Respond to people who talk to you, share other people’s triumphs and good ideas, listen to what people say. Don’t be the guy who strides into a Chamber of Commerce meeting, sprays the room with business cards, talks only with people he thinks can help him, and leaves without giving anything back to the organization or its members. It’s just as damaging in social media as in the physical world. If you’re a good member of the community, your fellow members will be happy to rejoice with you in your occasional self-promotion and to share your promotional offers — but not if that’s all you ever have to offer.

Step 4: Keep it up.

You have to participate consistently over the long term. Brief bursts of participation aren’t effective. They don’t build trust or community. That means you have to figure out who will do the work of participating in social media. It can’t be someone who will do it until they get too busy and then duck out, or someone who will do it for a few weeks and then give up.

Check out our free Omnichannel Ebook to get a step by step content marketing plan which will work for social media as well as other kinds of content. It’s a great starting point for your social media marketing plan!

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Saturday Morning Meeting: The Omnichannel Special

Saturday Morning Meeting’s special program on the omnichannel shopping experience brings up a lot of points that suppliers need to be aware of.

We’re also offering a free ebook which explores the subject further. Thomass Tessler of Integrated Insights, LLC, said that the omnichannel competition would be based on “what companies can provide the most compelling and useful content to influence that purchase decision.” Our omnichannel ebook gives you the basics on planning your content marketing strategy.

omni-bookOne of the interesting points that arose in this episode of Saturday Morning Meeting is the importance of data.

Lisa Bohn of Retail Insights said of suppliers and retailers working together, “The competition to win consumers is so fierce it is critical they know their mutual customers, their buying decision, their payment, purchase and delivery preferences and personalize that experience with the consumer.”

Ryan James of Electronic Arts confirmed that gathering information from the consumer is essential to their strategy. “We have a lot of data available from our players: the games they play and.. how they play them,” he said. “It’s really about how we utilize this plethora of information both in the product development and the product marketing.”

For Electronic Arts, marketing has gone from a press release designed to be read by retailers to direct communication with end users. “Today, that same information is delivered right from the executive producer of the game direct to the players through social media, through blog posts. And, and that becomes a great venue for a two-way conversation to take place.”

James gave the example of a game that had been ready to launch but was, based on consumer feedback, delayed for several months to incorporate some consumer-preferred changes. Being able to make those changes before launch made a big difference in the success of the product.

Electronic Arts also uses the data they collect in their marketing. “We surgically deliver our marketing message to the consumer where they’re at in the digital and social media channels and deliver it online and mobile,” James explains. “This marketing message is also customized to the consumer. So the player in our case we know what games they have played, what games they like and so it’s key that our marketing message against a new game is connecting those dots. We know you like this game so try the new one. We think you’ll like it as well. And I would just say that thanks to the ease of access of this information from a, from smartphones, that information is also readily available as the consumer’s standing in the aisle.”

Developing that two-way conversation with consumers can start with Retail Link, but it can’t stop there. Reaching the omnichannel consumer requires opportunities for the consumer to share data more directly.

Enjoy the entire episode above, or the podcast below!

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Online Grocery Shopping?

walmart-groceryBrick and mortar stores have faced challenges from online competitors — and are increasingly responding by accepting the new omnichannel reality and offering online options of their own.

The strongest holdout category is grocery, and especially fresh grocery. More than half of U.S. consumers report that they buy some groceries online, but only about 4% buy fresh foods online.

Most dry goods and household products can be acquired online easily; both Amazon and Target allow customers to set up automatic delivery subscriptions, though Walmart tried and discontinued this service. Walmart.com offers plenty of groceries, though, and the weekend family grocery trip is becoming less popular every year. Stocking up can easily be done online and physical grocery store visits often consist of a quick stop off for milk, meat, bread, and fresh produce on the way home from work.

Will fresh and frozen foods continue to be the exclusive realm of brick and mortar stores? Some forecasters anticipate that online fresh grocery shopping will increase from the current 4% to 16% or better in the next few years, but there are still some logistical issues to overcome.

A number of services now deliver fresh produce and frozen foods — but usually just one or the other. The challenge is not in getting carrots and turnips to consumers, but in getting a bag of groceries containing items that need different temperatures and storage conditions to make it through a day of deliveries. Meat, milk, bread, ice cream, bananas, and butter need a wide range of different ambient temperatures.

There’s also a cost issue. Grocery delivery works well in the UK where homes are much closer together; in the U.S., and especially while consumers get used to the idea, home delivery can mean a lot of driving for few customers.

Walmart’s solution is Walmart Pickup Grocery, which began testing on September 29th. Most visitors see the screen shown above, informing them that the service is not available in their area, but the lucky few can order their groceries online and pick them up at their local store — very nearly as convenient as the grocer’s delivery van of yore. Customers pull up to a kiosk and associates bring the groceries out to them, which can be a big improvement over physical grocery shopping for people with babies or dogs in the car, as well as a significant time savings.

Observers suggest that there are some issues to consider:

  • Word is that Retail Link isn’t entirely accurate on these sales.
  • Additional space and associates’ time is required, which will either shave profits or increase prices.
  • Customers won’t have the opportunity to make impulse buys on the path through checkout, possibly reducing basket size.
  • Customers may also be dissatisfied with the specific piece of produce or package of meat chosen by the associates.

Keep up with Walmart news and its implications for suppliers by subscribing to our newsletter.

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Walmart Supplier Glossary: SEO

SEO_IconSEO – Search Engine Optimization

SEO isn’t an acronym specific to Walmart, but Walmart does employ an SEO manager and SEO  writers.

Search engines are tools like Google and Bing. Search engine optimization is optimizing your website and other online properties for the search engines — making it easy for Google and thus for consumers to find you online.

Sam’s Club actually used to offer SEO services. Apparently, they charged $25 a month for search engine optimization back in 2007, and also built small business websites. You can still see many of those websites if you Google “samsbiz.com.” This is only of historical interest.

When the “always on” customer looks for your product on her phone in the store as part of her decision making process, or does some pre-shopping research on her desktop at work during a coffee break, you want to show up. You want to answer her questions and provide the consumer reviews she’ll use.

Google uses an algorithm to decide which website to show to consumers. The algorithm includes hundreds of factors, from spelling and grammar at your website to the physical location of the person searching. While the algorithm is secret, there are a few things that you can be sure will affect your SEO:

  • Quality content is the number one factor. Google says this repeatedly, and it has been confirmed experimentally as well. Your website needs a blog, articles, or other methods of providing fresh, original content on a regular basis. Remember that, while people like pictures and videos a lot, search engines don’t get much information from them. You have to used your words.
  • Links to your website are also very important. There have been many linkbuilding scams over the years and Google has punished the use of their techniques, so a lot of website owners are nervous about links. However, when Forbes links to your website (as they have to ours), it’s an indication that you are a good source of information on your subject. Google uses these online relationship markers to decide how valuable and trustworthy your website is, and will choose to show the most valuable and trustworthy websites first.
  • Social media is growing in importance. Google show different results to different people, and one way they decide what to show your customer is the social connections he has made. Google will show what his Google+ friends have said about your product at their blogs, and Bing will show what his Facebook friends have Liked. The details of how social proof is used by search engines are still not completely certain, but it is clear that it makes a difference.

There is a conversation about your brand and your product online. You want to be part of that conversation. SEO helps you do that.

8th & Walton is the premier provider of Retail Link training, but we also work with CPG companies on many aspects of business with mass market retailers. Contact us for custom training and consultation.

 
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7 Tips for Selling to Walmart.com and SamsClub.com

ecommerce1As it becomes ever more clear that Walmart is embracing ecommerce as part of the omnichannel shopping experience, it makes more sense than ever to work at getting your products into Walmart.com. At the same time, Walmart.com has traditionally been a place for Walmart to try products out before bringing them into physical stores, and there is still an element of that flexibility.

  1. The basic requirements for getting on the virtual shelf are the same as the requirements for getting on the shelf at Walmart. Apply and make sure that you have all the basics covered.
  2. Basics include EDI, D-U-N-S, and a clear plan for how you’ll ramp up capacity if need be… and pay for it.
  3. You know that you have to think seriously about how your product will fit Walmart and appeal to the Walmart shopper — but the Walmart shopper may not be the Walmart.com shopper. Recent studies suggest that most Walmart shoppers don’t shop at Walmart.com.
  4. Get to know Walmart.com — the new Walmart.com. If you haven’t looked lately, you haven’t seen what you need to see. Make sure that you’re ready to explain how your product can rock the new online features.
  5. Be prepared for the content and image requirements. You don’t have to walk in with your page ready, but you should be completely sure you can handle it. If you’re surprised, you might not look completely sure.
  6. Make sure you have some good online reviews in place. This is the key to strong online sales, so be ready to demonstrate that you can garner those positive reviews. Easiest way to get them: send out samples and ask for honest reviews.
  7. Know your numbers very thoroughly. Walmart.com pricing may have to support site-to-store shopping, so you have to know how low you can go without going in the red.

When you’re ready to take the plunge, start with 8th & Walton’s class on Selling to Walmrt.com and SamsClub.com. You’ll get the know-how you need to succeed.

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Is Factoring Right for My Business?

Reconstructed_Babylon_-1From Ancient Babylon to the present time, factoring has been a common means of financing a business. A merchant would advance funds to a farmer to buy seeds and pay workers, in exchange for the right to sell the crop. An Englishman would finance a ship to the colonies, in exchange for a portion of the proceeds when the goods were sold in America. Now, a factor (from facteur, or agent in French) will advance funds based on the amount of a large order so that a manufacturer can produce the goods which have been sold.

Factoring, or purchase order financing as it is now often called, can be ideal for a new Walmart supplier. Often, the smaller supplier has spent years working toward getting on the shelf at Walmart or another mass market retailer. When the order comes in at last, the thrill may be slightly tempered by fear — where will the funds come from to meet the costs of preparing and delivering the order?

This can be especially challenging if the retailer has asked for changes. Adding preservatives to a formula, redesigning the packaging, or adding new sizes to a line may be what it takes to clinch the deal, and it may involve added costs. For a young company, this can be a longed-for opportunity, but it can also be a real danger, if cash flow is threatened.

In such cases, a new company may not be able to access capital from traditional banks. Even if the gamble pays off and the product does well, it’s possible for the company to hit a bump in the road. A company may face challenges, yet still have an opportunity to turn things around as long as it can access the capital it needs.

Geoff Anderman of Turning Point Capital says that purchase order financing and factoring have some real benefits:

  • You can get access to capital to grow your business without selling equity.
  • You can grow your business without adding debt to your balance sheet
  • You can fill large orders without worrying that you won’t be able to cover payroll.
  • You can get access to funds quickly. Factors move much more quickly than banks — you can have funds as quickly as a week after applying.

Since the funds are based on the order you’ve already received, they don’t lead to long-term debt or require you to give up any part of your business to an investor. They’re also less risky for the financing company, so they can be more flexible.

Factoring, or purchase order financing, can be a practical solution for suppliers.

8th & Walton offers classes in accounting as well as a broad ranger of other supplier development areas.

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Amazon Goes Brick and Mortar

8th & Walton’s Saturday Morning Meeting reported that Amazon is opening a brick and mortar store in Manhattan. This will be the first shopper-friendly building Amazon has built.

The ecommerce giant has established sales tax nexus in plenty of states with physical buildings — and collects sales tax from consumers in just about half the states. The buildings have however typically been warehouses.

Consumers don’t always want to wait for products. While Amazon is currently giving consumers credit toward ebooks if they agree to wait longer for products, they are also guaranteeing two-day shipping for many customers. A more robust investment in distribution centers and warehouses has been unavoidable.

The new facility will be a warehouse and distribution center, making same-day delivery and site-to-store shopping possible for Manhattan shoppers in time for the holidays. But the location on 34th street, near Macy’s and the Empire State Building, makes it likely that Amazon is thinking about traditional retail. There is speculation that the Manhattan facility will sell Kindles (briefly sold in Walmart and Target) and Fire phones.

Pop-up stores selling Kindles and lockers for returns and deliveries have apparently worked out well enough for Amazon to make a store seem like a good investment, in spite of the extra costs involved.

Industry leaders have been saying that Walmart’s distribution and logistics skills would give the retail behemoth an advantage over Amazon once Walmart improved its ecommerce experience. Now that Walmart has embraced the omnichannel shopper, Amazon is having to add brick and mortar channels to keep up.

This is an exciting time for ecommerce with Walmart. If you’re not on the virtual shelf, get there with 8th & Walton’s Selling to Walmart. com and SamsClub.com classes.

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The New Walmart.com

walmartWalmart’s ecommerce website has made some big changes. Here’s a quick list:

  • It’s responsive. The omnichannel consumer may visit a website on a phone, a tablet, a laptop, a desktop, and a large-screen TV — all in the same day, or more than one device at a time. Giving visitors a consistently good experience across devices is key. Walmart’s website now looks good across devices.
  • It’s personalized. Offering visitors options based on what they’ve already chosen to browse or buy — behavioral targeting — is standard now for ecommerce websites. Walmart.com also responds to visitors’ geographic locations and the weather there. Personalization is a major retail marketing trend, and shoppers have come to expect it.
  • Search is better. The new search tool includes personalization, and it also works better. Frustrated shoppers leave if the search tool on an ecommerce website doesn’t work properly, so this is a high priority. Evigo reports that Walmart saw a 20% increase in sales after this change (no word on the time frame).
  • Checkout is faster. Just as many brick and mortar shoppers compare all their shopping experiences with Walmart, online shoppers may compare all their shopping experiences with Amazon. Walmart.com has stepped up and streamlined the checkout experience.
  • It connects with physical stores. A new “My Local Store” section tells visitors about specials at the local store and speeds up pharmacy and site to store shopping, but that’s not all. If visitors shop for motor oil, they’ll be offered a display ad for Walmart’s auto service center. This kind of connection between channels reflects changing consumer behavior.

The changes at Walmart.com are in line with Walmart’s successful refocus on the omnichannel shopper. What should suppliers do?

  • Keep up. Walmart isn’t messing around, so suppliers should also step up their game. Consumers expect a seamless omnichannel experience, and suppliers who help Walmart deliver that to consumers will benefit.
  • Get on the virtual shelf. If you haven’t wanted to be in Walmart.com before, you should think about it now. 8th & Walton’s Selling to Walmart.com and Samsclub.com is a great place to start.
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