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Walmart.com’s ShippingPass

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Walmart’s new premium membership program will be called ShippingPass, according to reports in TechCrunch and Time. For $50.00 a year, Walmart.com customers will get free three-day shipping on eligible items and free four to six day shipping on certain other items, with no minimum order.

Walmart.com currently offers free shipping on orders of $50.00 or more.

While this program has been described as an alternative to Amazon prime, it may actually be an alternative to Prime Pantry.

Amazon’s Prime program, which runs about $100 a year, has five components:

  • free two-day shipping with no minimum purchase
  • unlimited cloud photo storage
  • free video streaming of movies and TV shows, including Amazon exclusive content
  • free music, again including some exclusives
  • free monthly Kindle book checkout

Prime Pantry, on the other hand, offers groceries and household goods for a flat $5.99 a box, including “heavy and bulky items that are cost prohibitive to ship for free” — for example, dog food and toilet paper. Shoppers are told the percentage of their box (four cubic feet or 45 pounds) which is still available as they add items and can use online tools to get the box completely full, so the $5.99 box could take the place of a monthly stock-up shopping trip, or less price-conscious consumers can put just a couple of items into the box and pay the shipping fee.

The service is available only to Prime members, so the price-conscious shopper who uses the service once a month would pay $170.00 and change over the course of a year, compared with $50 for ShippingPass, a significant savings. The full range of ShippingPass eligible products isn’t yet known, but Walmart could certainly compete on selection of basic grocery and household items. Walmart also has a much wider selection in house brand products than Amazon, which offers its house brand in electronics and household furnishings rather than in grocery.

Prime members whose focus is on the shipping rather than the digital products, and especially those who use Prime Pantry, might find ShippingPass an appealing alternative. There may also be a positive side effect, given the studies that have shown that Walmart shoppers and Walmart.com shoppers are not always the same group of people.

ShippingPass, like Prime Pantry, means greater convenience and savings on time and gas, not to mention the benefit of not having to go to the grocery store, a plus for the many Americans who dislike grocery shopping. Walmart, however, has the advantage of brick and mortar stores in customers’ neighborhoods. A ShippingPass shopper who needs a quick fill-in on products and doesn’t want to wait for three days can zip over to the local Neighborhood Market, and is likely to, since it’s an extension of her regular online grocery shopping.

It might not be a “Prime killer,” as some observers have suggested, but it might be the final nail in the omnichannel shopper experience box. Getting Walmart shoppers to go to Walmart.com and Walmart.com shoppers to go to Walmart would benefit the entire organization.

For Walmart suppliers, the message is simple: get into Walmart.com. A shopper who buys your products regularly in the store and can’t find your brand online may switch to a competitor’s brand… online and in the physical store.

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Retail Link Training with 8th & Walton

RetailLink training

The City Wire mentioned earlier this week that Walmart suppliers must be prepared to use Retail Link, Walmart’s proprietary POS software. They said that former Walmart buyer Bill May told them that new suppliers need training on how to use Retail Link “because it’s essential to see how a product is doing on the shelf.” They went on to report that Retail Link training is not provided by Walmart, but by third party firms like 8th & Walton.

But do you really want someone “like” 8th & Walton? Look what 8th & Walton has to offer:

  • Expertise from veterans of Walmart and the Walmart supplier community
  • Classroom courses in many cities in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada
  • Live Online courses in English and in Spanish
  • Custom training on-site
  • Consultation and supplier services tailored to your needs
  • The best-anywhere selection of free resources for suppliers, from this blog to Saturday Morning Meeting for Suppliers to Walmart News Now

Don’t settle for something like 8th & Walton. Choose 8th & Walton.

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Walmart’s New Step toward Animal Rights

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Walmart’s push for sustainable beef has been primarily within the work of the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, and the treatment of animals was one of five pillars of a plan to produce beef in the way that best balances economic, environmental, and safety factors.

Here was the initial statement:

Respect and manage animals to ensure their health and welfare

Now, Walmart has come out in support of the Farm Animal Welfare Council’s list of five pillars for all livestock that make their way to Walmart and Sam’s Club shelves:

  1. Freedom from Hunger and Thirst
  2. Freedom from Discomfort
  3. Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease
  4. Freedom to Express Normal Behavior
  5. Freedom from Fear and Distress

Walmart is asking suppliers and their vendors to adopt the antibiotic practices of the American Veterinary Medical Association, which are stricter than government regulations for farms and ranches. Suppliers will also be asked to report on antibiotic use annually.

No deadline has been set for compliance, and at this point the changes appear to be voluntary. Animal rights group Mercy for Animals is asking Walmart to add animal welfare requirements to their ethical sourcing initiatives. However, Walmart’s sustainability KPIs already include antibiotic use for beef, pork and chicken.

Statements in the KPIs include paragraphs like these:

Beef producers should engage in comprehensive management plans, including certification programs, that ensure animal welfare for farm animals. Plans or programs should include practices that avoid painful procedures; ensure access to adequate housing and proper nutrition; require proper handling, proper transportation, and humane slaughter methods; and promote good health in ways that are appropriate for beef cattle.

The new standards are a continuation of the strong ethical sourcing standards that Walmart has been working on for years.

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Walmart’s Veterans Commitment

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As of Memorial Day, 2013, Walmart made a commitment to hire any honorably discharged veteran who wanted a job during their first year out of the service. The Veterans Welcome Home Commitment has put 92,000 veterans into Walmart jobs, and the company has renewed the commitment today, promising 250,000 jobs for veterans by 2020.

Walmart also includes veterans in the Diverse Supplier program, which supports new suppliers. Veterans and disabled veterans are both included among the Diverse Supplier certifications.

8th & Walton sponsor Mach 1 Financial Group feels a special connection with the Walmart veterans initiatives. CEO David Lee was a fighter pilot for nearly a decade in the U.S. Air Force — that’s his F-16 in the photo above.

When he left the service, hoping to create a more stable life for his family, he was uncertain where his future as a civilian would lead him. Ending up in financial services may seem like a complete change of direction, but Lee sees a strong connection.

Protecting our country as a fighter pilot or “protecting America’s wealth,” says Lee, takes the same approach: “Know your strengths and weaknesses and use that information to make it home alive.”

The COO of Mach 1 Financial Group, Kyle Alexander, was in the Walmart supplier community before he joined Mach 1, so he has an insider’s view when working with members of the supplier community on financial planning. Alexander recognizes that people in the supplier community may change jobs frequently.

“Changing jobs,” he says, “means changes in your retirement plans, whether you realize it or not.” The typical career path within the supplier community can leave suppliers with multiple abandoned 401(k)s.

Mach 1 Financial Group’s long-range plan is to bring more veterans into the financial services field. Bridging the skills and experience from the military to a civilian career can be a challenge; about 10% of recent combat veterans are unemployed, a far higher percentage than in the population as a whole.

Suppliers can help, too, by seeking opportunities to employ veterans or to choose vets as vendors. The Veterans Employment Toolkit provides resources.

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Walmart and the Economy

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Walmart recently revealed its first quarter performance, and the news led to a drop in stock prices. Sales were down just .1% but operating profits were down by 8.3%. The Wall Street Journal called it “uneven progress,” pointing out that some of the change reflects the strategic investments Walmart has been making in ecommerce and in wage hikes for associates.

The WSJ also reported uneven progress in the U.S. economy. While the latest numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show a 2% total increase in available jobs in the U.S., WSJ suggests that the increase is largely in higher-paying jobs — a good thing, they hasten to add, but it’s not helping people who don’t have the skills to get those jobs. Fewer jobs are being created in industries like fast food and retail, where wage protests may be discouraging new hires. “We need quantity as well as quality,” said economist Diane Swonk.

The data for joblessness may also be less accurate than analysts would like, since lower unemployment claims can be affected by people who give up or who have been on unemployment so long that their benefits have ended.

Low-income Americans may not only continue to have trouble finding jobs, but they also took a hit from reductions in SNAP (food stamp) benefits and other federal assistance. Single people are now generally ineligible for any kind of assistance, which may affect their parents’ finances when unemployed young adults rely on family for financial support. One category manager told us that there’s a “Depression-era mentality” among shoppers that encourages them to “refresh, reuse, and repurpose” before investing in something new.

As for the more affluent consumers, they are also shopping differently. In particular, according to The Economist, Americans are now, for the first time, eating in restaurants more than at home. Add online grocery shopping at sites like Amazon, the rise of home grocery delivery services, the boom in farmers markets, and times are still tough for retailers even as the economy overall improves.

Suppliers have already seen more of a push from Walmart to lower costs. A former buyer says, “I know I had to push and push and push for lower costs, but there comes a point where it’s just not there.” For smaller suppliers, it can be hard to ride out tough times.

Resources:

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Will You Use Retail Link 2.0?

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Retail Link 2.0 is exciting. CEOs like the idea of being able to get data in near real-time, and being able to check for the answers to specific questions when the answer is needed instead of having to run a report and wait for analysis.

Analysts are excited about being able to narrow in on data with map and weather information as well as sales figures. Having a visual interface at last is exciting to people in a variety of roles.

But some suppliers tell us they’re not looking forward to Retail Link 2.0. Here’s why — and how the objections might be overcome.

  • Retail Link 2.0 will require a modern browser. If your company uses Internet Explorer 6.0 and doesn’t allow anyone to download a newer browser, Retail Link 2.0 won’t work well for you. But you know what? Most website and web services won’t work well for you, either. What’s more, an old browser is a security risk. It’s time to update.
  • Retail Link 2.0 is an ongoing project. Speaking of time, some power users of Retail Link don’t want to update because they know where everything is, they love their Excel spreadsheets, and they don’t have time to learn something new. Since Retail Link 2.0 will be getting frequent updates, they’d rather still with what they know. Walmart is keeping Retail Link Classic just for people who feel this way, but it’s worth trying out the additional usability and functionality of Retail Link 2.0 before you decide against it.
  • You have people who take care of that for you. If you use a service to prepare reports or to present your Retail Link Classic data in a visual interface, you may be happy with what you’re doing right now. Letting someone else see to it is a great way to cut the noise and deal only with the signal — and 8th & Walton is happy to provide those services. Actually, Retail Link 2.0 will be perfect for you if this is your situation. You’ll only need the capacity to get quick answers to questions as you need the specific data.

Watch for more on Retail Link 2.0. Even if you’re hesitant about it now, you should give it a shot. Count on 8th & Walton to make it easier.

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Team Enhancement Training with Sidney Moncrief

 

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Sidney Moncrief will lead Team Enhancement Training with 8th & Walton on June 12, 2015, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m at the Jones Center in Springdale, Arkansas.

Moncrief was a Razorback for four years, during which time he helped lead the Hogs to the Final Four game and a win over Notre Dame. His jersey was retired and he was inducted into the Southwest Conference Hall of Fame. Many observers hold that Moncrief’s dedication and skill revitalized the University of Arkansas basketball program and laid the foundation for later successes.

Moncrief  played 11 seasons in the NBA and twice received the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award. His jersey was retired when he left the Bucks for health reasons.

He went on to coach and to provide game analysis for the Bucks. But now his primary work is with Moncrief One Team, a “people development” company focusing on life and corporate training. Moncrief has written five books and worked with a star-studded list of clients. We’re expecting an exceptional event!

Register your team now!

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As the Pendulum Swings…

pendulum

Change is inevitable, and suppliers have to be prepared to adjust to change. What changes? Changes in consumer behavior have been in the headlines lately, but retailers policies also change.

Think back to Walmart’s Project Clarity, an effort to produce a more efficient assortment by dropping niche market items.  It might have been efficient, but it ended up affecting the whole market basket.

A decade ago, most grocery shoppers did a weekly shopping, buying much the same items each week. They would check the Wednesday morning newspaper ads, perhaps do their weekly menu planning, and head out on Saturday morning to shop, often as a family. The experience was largely retailer-driven. The special offers were determined by the retailer, prices were set by the retailer for consumers who were aware of only a small number of prices; as long as those items were priced competitively, shoppers stuck with their usual store.

When Walmart drops her favorite rice blend, what does the shopper do? Research from the Harvest Group found that there were three typical responses, fairly evenly divided in frequency:

  • About a third bought a competitor’s brand, the best outcome for the retailer.
  • Another third went to a different store to buy the item, the best outcome for the supplier.
  • The remaining third simply left without buying the item — a loss in sales.

The Harvest Group didn’t find out how the experience affected the next buying trip, but we can assume that some shoppers, having had to go to a new store for a niche item they considered a staple, would continue going to that store. Others would accept the competitor’s product and switch. Perhaps some would think that their item wasn’t available any more and accept its loss rather than shopping for it. Those shoppers might also stop buying the other ingredients that went along with the dropped item.

However, the retailer-driven weekly stock up trip is less common now. Shoppers are more likely to stop off for a few items on the way home from work, they’re more likely to shop online for packaged goods, and they don’t accept that their favorite rice blend is no longer available.

Project Clarity ended. Walmart put a greater focus on avoiding out of stocks and on meeting the new, empowered consumer halfway with site-to-store options and more ecommerce choices. Walmart picked up some tricks from Amazon (they’re now trying out their own version of Amazon Prime) and is being creative with testing new ideas.

At the same time, the new “Back to Basics” plan may provide a more consistent experience for suppliers. If so, suppliers will be able to benefit from Walmart’s agility and innovation, while at the same time having a smoother relationship with buyers.

One of the biggest takeaways is this: with a customer-centered business, consumer behavior will generally be one of the top drivers of change. Knowing your consumer well continues to be key to supplier success.

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Saturday Morning Meeting Meets The Small Biz Lady

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Many Walmart suppliers are small businesses, and so are many CPG companies that want to get on the shelf at Walmart and other mass market retailers. Loria Oliver spoke with Melinda Emerson, the Small Biz Lady on the most recent Saturday Morning Meeting for Suppliers.

Emerson shared some valuable pointers for using social media to grow your business:

  • Start with one platform. “Figure out the place where your best target customer spends the majority of their time online,” says Emerson. “You need to focus on that social media platform, too.”
  • “Only share helpful information. Period.”
  • Engage with people. Don’t think of your Twitter account as a place to promote yourself; think of it as a conversation. Answer consumer comments, learn people’s names, and be a good citizen of the social media platform you’re using.
  • Listen and get to know the platform you’re using. “Facebook people do not want to be communicated to like they’re Twitter people. They don’t like all that hashtag stuff we do over on twitter.”
  • Promote yourself and your brand, but do it with care. Emerson recommends that you share other people’s content 4:1 to your own. “Be sweet and retweet.”

The true value of social media is not that it gets people to rush out and buy your product. It’s that it builds your network. “90% of small businesses, get business from referrals,” Emerson points out. Building a network helps you get those referrals.

Watch the whole episode to see more of Emerson’s wisdom, and much more.

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Greg Chandler on the Walmart Savings Catcher

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Greg Chandler, Sr. Marketing Director – Customer Engagement at Walmart spoke in the Doing Business in Bentonville speaker series yesterday about the Savings Catcher, Walmart’s price comparison app. The Savings Catcher lets customers submit their receipts, checks for lower prices, and automatically receives the price difference as a Savings Catcher balance, redeemable at Walmart stores.

Right now, the balance is available to the shopper within 72 hours. Chandler reports that Walmart is working on a notification feature that will let shoppers know when they have a balance.

What motivated the Savings Catcher? The Walmart customer.

The modern consumer expects personalization and is more deal-savvy than ever. 70% of Walmart customers are value-driven and, as Chandler put it, “Digital makes saving too easy for all these value-driven customers.”

The Always on shopper researches products and prices before walking into the store. The Savings Catcher gives shoppers confidence that Walmart will always give them the best deal, increasing trust and perhaps lessening price comparisons and shopping around. Since the redeemable balance must be spent at Walmart, it brings the customer back.

But Chandler made the point that all Walmart’s value-driven customers are not alike. He identified four types:

  • The passive saver doesn’t want to look for deals. They identify the retailers that will give them a better deal and shop faithfully with those retailers. For this customer, Savings Catcher provides reassurance and confirmation of their choice of Walmart.
  • The traditional active saver checks ads, clips coupons, and watches for special promotions. These shoppers may keep records of sales and swap coupons with friends. The Savings Catcher can be a time saver for these shoppers.
  • The tech-driven saver uses digital coupons and price comparison tools. A large online community shares information on sales and specials, so that these shoppers may resist paying full price. The Savings Catcher can be an addition to their arsenal of tools.
  • The principled saver may have a higher income and doesn’t need price cuts to make ends meet. This shopper still makes price-conscious shopping decisions — on principle. The Savings Catcher fits this customer’s position on opportunity costs.

The Savings Catcher has been marketed digitally, with a heavy emphasis on social media. While it has lifted traffic and sales among the typical Walmart shopper, the Savings Catcher has, Chandler says, tripled sales among new or less-frequent Walmart shoppers who require more proof, such as Millennials.

Now that it’s been in play for more than a year, Walmart can also identify advantages beyond the sales numbers:

  • It captures 50 million pieces of data each week.
  • It recaptures 100% of Ad Match spending.
  • It gives better insight into shopper behavior.
  • It monitors competitors’ pricing.
  • It streamlines the Ad Match checkout process.
  • It eliminates the tense Ad Match environment.
  • It reduces human error in the Ad Match process.
  • It drives use of Walmart’s other apps at a time when most retailers are seeing a drop in app use.

At present, Walmart is not sharing the data captured with suppliers, and there are no plans to integrate the data into Retail Link. Chandler suggested, however, that suppliers might be able to get relevant information on a case by case basis. He also recommended that suppliers share their own data to increase the odds of that information’s being included in future versions of the Savings Catcher personalization algorithm.

What’s coming up for Walmart’s apps? Interactive store maps and product finders, smart lists and gift registries, ereceipts, and mobile payments were on Chandler’s list of forthcoming tech additions.

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