The Supply Side: Walmart’s partnership with Yahoo a first, but needs improving

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 2,084 views 

Walmart blazed a new trail when it recently partnered with Verizon Media to launch an online grocery service for Yahoo Mail users. The service allows consumers to fill their Walmart grocery carts with items from Walmart directly from their email inbox.

The service is called “Groceries from Walmart” and is the first time the retail giant has partnered with an email provider to market itself.

“Customers are leaning on Walmart more than ever to help them save on items they need the most but also to help save them time,” Rich Lehrfeld, senior vice president of Walmart Marketing, said in a statement.

“The new Groceries from Walmart feature that lives within Yahoo Mail takes one more step out of our customers’ days, helping them shop when, how and where they want.”

According to Verizon Media, Yahoo Mail has about 25% of the market share, which delivers 4.5 billion emails daily. The company said Yahoo Mail is available in more than 40 countries and 70 languages, with about 200 million monthly active users worldwide and 3.5% growth in worldwide mobile visitors year over year.

Yahoo’s Grocery View allows users to see deals at local grocery stores and save coupons to their inboxes. Dollar General, Safeway, Albertsons are among the retailers showing their promotions on the Yahoo Grocery View. Walmart is the only retailer among the 23 that allows users to fill their carts with grocery products after selecting a local store for pickup or delivery.

Verizon said the service streamlines shopping by enabling Yahoo Mail users to make grocery purchases from Walmart, the world’s largest grocery retailer, within the mail app they use daily to track promotions, coupons and other functions. The shopping cart never expires, allowing consumers to keep adding items and check out whenever they’re ready.

“Because of the unprecedented coronavirus challenge, online grocery shopping is now the new normal, and Verizon Media is well-positioned to take advantage of the behavior shifts,” said Guru Gowrappan, CEO of Verizon Media. “We’re proud to partner with Walmart on this industry-first feature, helping Yahoo Mail users more easily browse and buy essential groceries without having to leave their inbox, saving them time and helping them organize their lives through enhanced and innovative experiences within their email.”

Verizon Media also aims to capture offline-to-online customer behavior and create a more integrated shopping experience for its approximately 900 million users.

A recent study by Imnar Intelligence found nearly 80% of U.S. consumers are now shopping online for groceries, well above the pre-pandemic levels of just under 40%. Almost 60% also said they are shopping for groceries online more often now than before the outbreak.

Northwest Arkansas Business Journal used the Groceries from Walmart service via Yahoo Mail. The user experience varied depending on the browser chosen to access Yahoo Mail. The experience while using Safari was good. Consumers can shop from 18 different food categories ranging from beverages to snacks, meat and poultry, candy, pasta, sauces, breakfast, prepared foods, bakery, dairy, frozen, soups, spices, dips, baking, produce and nuts and seeds.

Absent from the shopping options were health and beauty aids and other items that could round out a shopping list. Consumers could not buy over-the-counter medicines, pet foods, shampoo or even toilet paper, which are all available at a typical Walmart Neighborhood Market and any Supercenter. The limited assortment was negative for the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal’s shopping experience. But the overall process of selecting items and adding to the shopping cart was easy.

The shopping experience using a Firefox browser was similar to Safari. The user experience when accessing Yahoo Mail through Chrome was not user-friendly. There was no ability to scroll through the lists, and only the top six products in each category were able to be viewed.

After filling the shopping cart with the desired grocery items, consumers are asked if they want to complete the purchase. To do so, they are redirected to Walmart’s site to sign-in to complete the transaction. Yahoo said the cart remains active for an unlimited amount of time, and shoppers can complete the transaction at their convenience.

Scott Benedict, director for retail studies at Texas A&M University and a former Walmart executive, said Walmart gets credit for stepping out and trying a new option to meet consumers where they are. The only caveat to this for Walmart is that the company loses control of the shopper experience, which can vary depending on the browser used to access the email account.

“Customer expectations are always going higher, and there is a risk when the experience is less than acceptable. Walmart has done a great job with the user experience through its app and website, and that has to be the minimum standard for consumers now. Also, the challenges with not finding all your shopping needs look problematic with the new service,” Benedict said.

It’s not the first time Walmart has partnered with a company to give shoppers another way to shop. Walmart and Google in 2019 rolled out voice ordering capabilities through the help of Google Assistant.

“It’s cross-platform, which means customers can use any device utilizing Google Assistant and allows for items to go directly to a customer’s shopping cart, making this capability one of a kind. We’re kicking off the work with Google, adding others to the mix as time goes on,” Tom Ward, senior vice president of digital operations at Walmart, said at the time.

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.