Walmart asks suppliers to help it woo customers with ‘retailtainment’ venues in stores

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 1,731 views 

Tony Rogers, the new chief marketing officer for Walmart U.S., says customers should in the coming months expect a healthy dose of retailtainment in stores and he has told suppliers to get onboard with the promotions.

It’s been almost two years since Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon rekindled the idea of retailtainment in Walmart supercenters. A year ago company executives dabbled in retailtainment telling employees they could wear ugly holiday sweaters and their favorite college team apparel on game day.

Rogers spoke on the value and importance of retailtainment at the 2016 Emerging Trends in Retail Conference in Rogers on Tuesday (June 14). More than 300 retail and supplier professionals attended the annual event. Walmart set up mock demonstrations for the types of retailtainment it has planned for stores.

He said the retailer has put together a retailtainment committee comprised of merchants and merchandisers to ensure stores around the country are once again seen as destinations for friends and families. Walmart is working with Shopper Events and Smart Network on the new displays.

Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising officer for Walmart U.S., said Tuesday it is time for suppliers to jump into the retailtainment initiative. He said families dressed in their Sunday best should have plenty of reasons to spend part of their afternoons shopping a Walmart supercenter throughout the year. He encouraged suppliers in the group to consider demonstrations of products, sampling and other promotional activities that would benefit both parties.

As of now Walmart plans to showcase new products with a “New Every Friday” program where customers can sample new products highlighted around the store. Walmart said the initiative is designed to draw more traffic into the stores on Friday. The new items could range from crackers to DVD releases. Rogers said Walmart has learned there can be a 300% lift in sales when a new product is demonstrated in store for customers. The retailer said suppliers who want to demo their products should work with Shopper Events to do so in stores Thursday to Sunday with Friday being preferred day for  new items.

A Walmart Store Halloween booth display example at the 2016 Emerging Trends in Retail Conference in Rogers on Tuesday (June 14).
A Walmart Store Halloween booth display example at the 2016 Emerging Trends in Retail Conference in Rogers on Tuesday (June 14).

Rogers said the retailtainment committee seeks to deliver high impact, fun and memorable experiences that drive trips and conversions. He said the strategy is making everything connect. For instance, there will be elves dispersed throughout the store during the holiday season featuring everything from “chosen by kids” toys which are demonstrated onsite, to a booth on how to choose the right wine for a dinner party.

Rogers said Walmart is looking for suppliers to join in the effort and work together for product demo displays across the retail box. In October, Walmart plans to hold another nationwide health fair hoping to replicate the results from last year’s event when there were 280,000 screenings, 50,000 immunizations and possibly three lives saved when the customers were sent to the hospital after having their blood pressure checked in the store.

“We know our customers are craving a retail experience and people are also looking for advice to make their decisions easier,” Rogers said. “We encourage suppliers who offer products around health and wellness to take part in this massive health care event.”

In late October Walmart shoppers should see Halloween booths in the stores, offering recipes and supplies for party planning. The booth will be manned by merchandisers in costume in hopes of driving cross category traffic from grocery to seasonal.

Walmart will also continue to build displays around movie releases and game releases showcasing licensed apparel and other items relating to the release. Game day promotions on everything from chips and salsa to coolers and lawn chairs will be staged together around the large “Game Day” displays.

Market watchers say the retailtainment efforts help build excitement and can also create an opportunity to enhance the customer experience.

“I remember years ago going to a supercenter for the experience, the food samples and seeing all the merchandise. But today I rarely go there. I can get my groceries at a smaller, more convenient Neighborhood Market and I really don’t have a reason to go to the supercenter,” said Allan Ellstrand, professor at the University of Arkansas.

After hearing what Sam’s Club has done to bring technology and user engagement into their clubs, Ellstrand said Walmart could certainly do the same thing in supercenters. He said customers need a reason to go into a massive supercenter when most things can be purchased elsewhere. He said creating a great customer experience within
supercenters is a good strategy for Walmart in this era of everyone selling everything all the time.

Bratspies said talk that the supercenter is irrelevant is completely false. He pointed to seven straight quarters of improved traffic in the stores and said the future for supercenter is a bright one. David Glass, retail veteran and former Walmart CEO, also said Tuesday that “the supercenter is the most powerful retail weapon on the street.”

Disney is known as one of the best at curating a personal customer experience, but Paul Gainer, executive vice president with Disney Retail, said the company had to work to extend that prime experience level in the retail marketplace. He said all the employees in the Disney retail stores are considered cast members. He said they are on-stage during store hours and their level of performance is measured as if they were actual performers. He said the products are important, but it’s the cast that makes purchases memorable and keeps customers coming back time and time again.