Ever wondered how to get some face time with the decision makers at Bentonville?
Well stop wondering and check out Walmart’s new Getontheshelf.com site, which offers aspiring suppliers a novel route to getting listed at the world’s biggest retailer and highlights an emerging trend to try to involve the public in the product selection process.
‘We’re giving anyone a chance to launch their product at Walmart’
Launched last month, Get on the Shelf is a competition “similar to the popular American Idol television show” in which contestants can submit videos of their new products to be put forward to a public vote (deadline Feb 22).
There will be two rounds of public voting. The first, from March 7-April 3, will determine the 10 finalists.
The second, from April 11-24, will determine the grand prize winner, who may secure listings on Walmart.com plus “valuable shelf space in select Walmart stores across the country”.
Announcing the initiative last month, Venky Harinarayan, senior vice president of Walmart Global e-commerce and co-head of WalmartLab, said: “For a long time, the ability to get a product into a retail store was at the sole discretion of the store buyer.
“Today, we are removing these barriers by giving anyone a chance to launch their product at Walmart.”
Take out the middle man
The move follows initiatives from several consumer products companies inviting the public to choose limited edition flavors, packaging and products via facebook, online marketing campaigns or their own websites, and reflects a growing trend on the part of big brands to engage more directly with customers.
But are these attempts to remove the middleman the beginning of a fundamental shift in the way foods are developed, selected and sold? Or are they just gimmicks peddled by the Twitterati?
A chance for the little guys?
Lori Colman, founder of marketing agency Colman Brohan Davis, says GetontheShelf could challenge perceptions about Walmart, but urges entrants to check out the small print before getting too excited…
“It does seem to answer a common negative perception of Walmart – that they don’t support innovation, are unkind to the ‘little guys’ and that it is nearly impossible to get shelf space", Colman told FoodNavigator-USA.
“I think ‘Get on the Shelf’ is both a gimmick and reflective of an emerging trend in retail. It’s certainly a low-cost promotion for Walmart … they are actually only obligated to award $32,500 in prize money. Most of the press surrounding this promo implies that the winners will indeed have product placed online and in stores. But check out the fine print.
“Winners get the cash and an opportunity to meet with Walmart’s merchandising team to negotiate terms product placement on Walmart.com and possibly in store. I imagine scalability and liability issues will be key considerations. If a consumer was injured with their ‘candle wick extractor’ or ‘DIY hair removal threading system’, who pays?”
But could it all backfire?
A brief look at the submissions to date reveals a bewildering array of products, from bizarre new inventions to established products, and is certainly a good way to pass the time (if you have nothing better to do than muse over novel contraptions designed to help you collect pet poop), she notes.
“I can’t wait to see what gets voted in. It will be fun to observe how this unfolds.”
However, it could backfire on Walmart, she cautions. “I do think there is backfire potential here … if a product wins but just isn’t ready for prime time, Walmart could get a black eye and experience a social media backlash. Still, a star could be born.”
The question for Walmart is whether its brand is ready to play by the new rules
Beverly Murray, founder of brand experience agency R+M Agency, says much will depend on how Walmart follows through with GetontheShelf .
She adds: “The question for Walmart is whether its brand is ready to play by the new rules. Consumers are savvy to sniffing out a gimmick from a commitment.
“The social landscape has the power to topple governments and build superstars with the click of a vote. Getontheshelf.com , whereas an astute engagement strategy, will only realize its potential if the company's future actions support it.
“Is Walmart known for listening to its customers? Is Walmart known for helping the little business guy? It's all about accountability. The measure of success will be in how well Walmart integrates this initiative into an authentic conversation with its customers and vendors.”
Click here to enter and check out the submissions so far.
Click here for the rules.