The Supply Side: Suppliers pushed for ‘best price,’ more in-store demos

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 1,165 views 

Price matters to consumers, but so does convenience, according to Tony Rogers, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Walmart U.S., who laid out the retailer’s strategy to win with customers at the Supplier Summit held earlier this year.

He said 78% of consumers won’t continue shopping with a retailer who has low prices if it’s too time consuming. He also said the Bentonville-based retailer continues to bridge online and in-store shopping experiences which the company believes is the winning formula for the future. Walmart continues to look to its supplier base to help with the evolving Walmart story. But Rogers made it quite clear that “everything starts with price.”

“If you want to be featured in the tab, on the floor, etc., you must have price leadership,” Rogers said.

He adds that product quality is a close second. Rogers challenged suppliers to help Walmart with a “wow” factor that customers can’t refuse. For starters, Rogers said Walmart is pushing for more retailtainment in its stores. He defined retailtainment as something that makes consumers smile or feel good about their shopping experience. He encouraged suppliers to feature brand characters like Tony the Tiger or the Pillsbury Doughboy in stores.

For instance, Disney characters like Doc McStuffins could sign autographs in the store and provide photo opportunities with children in conjunction with a new toy or licensed apparel launch. Also, suppliers who have famous personalities under contract — such as Drew Barrymore and CoverGirl — could look for ways to have the celebrities make one or two guest appearances in stores to promote the item and take photos.

Rogers also said suppliers could help with “great merchant driven displays.” Creative soft drink or Kleenex displays could reflect some cause or consumer interest from NASCAR to breast cancer. Harkening back to the early days of Wal-Mart Stores, Rogers also mentioned an event of some sort in the parking lot. It was customary for the retailer to have events in the parking lots years ago, whether it was pony rides for kids or sidewalk sales. Rogers asked suppliers to think outside the box and look for opportunities to help drive excitement in and outside of stores.

He said Walmart believes retailtainment is a good way to reinvent the relevance of a physical shopping experience in a digital world. The retailer is looking for suppliers to help provide more sensory experiences for shoppers. This can be done using touch screen displays associated with particular items. Using augmented and virtual reality, consumers could see what a shade of foundation makeup or lipstick might look like on their face before they buy it. Rogers said Walmart is interested in creating a more personal and engaging way for consumers to shop, and suppliers can help by bringing suggestions to the table.

Rogers said Walmart set a goal of 1.5 million in-store demos this year, almost doubling what they did last year. He said demos can’t just be the traditional items, but they must also include general merchandise in order to deliver a “total box experience.” For instance a Ninja Juice Maker could be demonstrated in conjunction with a price promotion for the kitchen appliance. Customers could see the product in action and taste the juice for themselves.

Rogers said store demos should be in more stores and on more days this year, not just the typical Saturday schedule. The retailer is also eager to see complimentary items demonstrated together for instance a probiotic juice by Tropicana was recently demonstrated in concert with Quaker breakfast flat wafers late Sunday afternoon in the Walmart Supercenter located in Jane, Mo.

Walmart execs said suppliers need to commit to retailtainment, and they can do so by connecting marketing and merchandising. Rogers said demos will continue to align to category marketing programs, for instance planning events around NCAA football and basketball games, professional games in select markets as well as holiday promotional events like Easter, Halloween and Christmas.

He also said the shared commitment by suppliers and Walmart to retailtainment should help improve the overall shopping experience and drive more sales. Three other areas of improvement Rogers also sees happening include: Better service to customers; Operational enhancements within stores that resonate with customers; and Innovation around marketing and promotional content that connects with consumers.

He said there will be less rules with demo stations that give suppliers more flexibility. Rogers encourages suppliers to bring forward their marketing and retailtainment ideas even if Walmart has said “no” before. Rogers said demos are growing around the retailer’s store fleets. He said there are 5,500 event specialists signed up to date, but Walmart hopes to have 12,000 by the end of the year. He said Walmart is also working on the back end to deliver customizable reports as well as pre/during/post event sales and inventory analysis for those suppliers who do demos.

Rogers said Walmart stores responded well to Walmart U.S. CEO Greg Foran’s “clean, fast and friendly” initiative, and now it’s time to bring some excitement into the stores. Not only is Walmart hoping shoppers find a better shopping experience, but they are also likely to find lower prices on many items. And the retailer continues to roll back pricing with the help of suppliers.

Though Walmart sought to ramp up retailtainment in the past two years, Rogers said this time there is more store involvement. He said Walmart U.S. has 1.2 million employees in its stores “happy to help.”

The retailer also brought back Walmart radio inside stores over the past year to help make the shopping experience and work experience a little more cheerful.

Now, Rogers said Walmart is taking retailtainment to the next level. He said simplifying store signage to help aid navigation and leveraging local Facebook in bigger ways are two areas that Walmart has made vast improvements.
Editor’s note: The Supply Side section of Talk Business & Politics focuses on the companies, organizations, issues and individuals engaged in providing products and services to retailers. The Supply Side is managed by Talk Business & Politics and sponsored by Propak Logistics.