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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.

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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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Content Marketing for Walmart Suppliers

web-contentYour shoppers are learning about your product and your brand online. They’re looking for deals on their phones, checking out friends’ opinions on social media, scanning emails to find out about new products or solutions for their needs, browsing on their desktops during their coffee breaks, showing videos to their friends at parties, comparing products on their tablets, and seeking out consumer reviews before they buy.

Where is your brand?

If you’re expecting shoppers to make their decisions at the shelf, you’re missing a lot of opportunities. Because it’s not that your customers might check out your online content if you have some. They’re learning about your product online right now. If they’re not learning from you, they’re learning from your competitors.

This is why Walmart has been encouraging suppliers to add content marketing to their mix for more than a year now. They’ve stepped up, and you can improve your partnership with Walmart by doing the same.

So what steps should you take to get started with content marketing?

  • Provide good content at your brand website. Nielsen tells us that brand websites are a more trusted source of information than any ads (TV, print, or web), so this is the place to put your best content. Blogs, Pinterest-worthy product pictures, videos, infographics, podcasts — the opportunities are endless.
  • Answer consumer questions. You know what people want to know about your products. Tell them through content at your website and also by answering their questions in social media — an important new kind of customer service that can pay off in a big way.
  • Use email marketing to share targeted content. Personalize the emails you send to your customers. Capture email addresses with promotions, learn more about your customers by tracking their interactions with your website, and send them great content on the subjects you know they care about. Whether it’s recipes, DIY tips, coupons, or new product announcements, they’ll appreciate it.

Get inspired by 8th & Walton’s class on Ensuring New Item Success. A new product launch is the perfect occasion for stepping up your content marketing.

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Retail Link Training in Miami

Skyline_MiamiRight now, it’s beautiful in Northwest Arkansas, with brilliant blue skies, crisp air, the first fall color, and just a nip of cold in the evenings. It won’t be that way in December. In December it’ll be gloomy, gray, and probably cold.

Wouldn’t you like a good reason to go to Miami in December?

Or maybe Miami is your home base and you’d like a convenient source of Retail Link and supplier development training near home. 8th & Walton will be providing just that in December. Our experts come from Walmart’s back yard, so they can do much more than just give you instruction in software. You’ll know how to apply the analytics to your company to grow and strengthen your business with Walmart.

Courses Available in Miami

  • December 08, 2014

RLNK212 – Accounting, Invoicing & Deductions – 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM – $650

  • December 09, 2014

RLNK101 – Beginning Retail Link® – 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM – $650

  • December 10, 2014

RLNK201 – Intermediate Retail Link® – 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM – $650

  • December 11, 2014

SPLY201 – Planning & Forecasting – 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM – $650

  • December 12, 2014

SPLY202 – Replenishment & Inventory Management – 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM – $650

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6 Financing Options for Small and Growing CPG Businesses

financingFor new suppliers or CPG companies looking to expand into mass market, financing can be an issue. There are likely to be changes required all along the supply chain in order to have the capacity required to produce the volume needed to have a place on the shelf in a retailer like Walmart. There may be travel and multiple meetings, training and other third party services, and increases in marketing and promotions to get the numbers you need to demonstrate demand.

The transition from a specialty store brand to mass market, or from a local Walmart or Walmart.com brand to a broadly stocked Walmart brand, can take months or even years, and it can represent a significant investment. It’s highly unlikely that most small CPG companies can bootstrap this transition.

So where is the money to come from?

Geoff Anderman of Turning Point Capital lists six great financing options for CPG businesses that are either starting off or ready for growth:

  1. Bank financing is the traditional approach. If you have great credit, significant net worth, and firm prospects for expansion, this can be a good option. Plan to visit a lot of banks and be persistent.
  2. Purchase order financing bases the financing on what you’ve already sold. Turning away business because you don’t have the capital to produce the goods is a nightmare for growing CPG businesses. This type of financing can keep it from happening.
  3. Factoring or accounts receivable financing is an ancient system of financing business. Instead of taking on debt, the company essentially sells their accounts receivables, paying a percentage to the factor. A side benefit is that the factor will generally take on collections efforts.
  4. Asset based lending involves putting up an asset as collateral. A mortgage is a classic example. If your company has suitable assets or you’re willing to put up your own home or other assets, this type of financing may be easier to secure than other kinds.
  5. Term loans are loans paid off over a specific period of time (term) at a specific rate of interest. Buying a car and making payments on it every month is an example of this type of loan. Interest rates may be fixed, or they may change depending on various factors.
  6. Unsecured lines of credit allow a company to cover ordinary business costs as they arise. A credit card is a familiar example of this type of financing. Company credit lines often rely on the owner’s personal credit.

For many CPG companies, financing is a must. These forms of financing allow you to maintain full ownership of your company while also having the assurance of sufficient working capital.

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Small Supplier Partners with Walmart

Tony Williams and Toni Anderson of Petchup sell condiments for dog food. This was a completely new idea, which came to Tony one day as he was pouring ketchup on his french fries. At that time, no one was producing condiments for pets, and now they have Petchup, Muttstard, Meowstard, Woofteshire, and Catchup.

Petchup was just a product name at that point: a concept and a clever name. But Williams kept thinking about it, and was sure that the product could become a reality. He and Anderson figured out a formula and began bottling it and slapping on the labels one bottle at a time in their kitchen.

Because of the size and scope of their company at that point, they had to market through health food stores and pet boutiques, but that changed when they had a meeting with a Walmart buyer.

“He said, ‘I like what you’ve got. I like what you’re about. I don’t wanna lose it. But we need to make a couple changes. Will you work with me on that?’ And I think it’s critical for small supplier to understand that when they come into Walmart, it is give and take,” Williams explains. “It’s really trying to find that right place that works best.”

The best relationship between a supplier and a Walmart buyer is always a partnership. Developing that partnership is key.

For Petchup, that meant investing in a different bottling system, so they could produce their condiments in the quantities needed for mass market sales. It also meant adding preservatives, so the shelf life of their products could be what was needed to work with Walmart’s systems. Often, changes are needed all along the supply chain to make it possible for a new product to work in Walmart.

Understanding how Walmart does things can be crucial for new suppliers. Buyers may take the time to guide a new supplier, but it’s an advantage to have that understanding ahead of time. 8th & Walton courses like Intro to Walmart, Getting on the Shelf at Walmart, and Ensuring New Item Success can make the difference.

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