Walmart has been testing a concept called Goodies Co , an online subscription service that delivers local, artisan and specialty foods to your door for only $7 a month. As you can see from the picture Goodies is a gift box format, so you feel like you are getting a present, sort of a treasure hunt experience since you don't know what was hand-picked for you. Curiously the press release said this initiative was created and now managed by @WalmartLabs? Hugh?
Goodies Co. has approximately 3,000 test users and you need an invitation to get on board… other services like Pinterest started with this "invite" method… it adds a sense of exclusivity that drives people to sign-up.
This is not your usual Walmart food merchandising assortment…. They launched a "Flavors around the World," and "Trick-or-Treat Sweets" for Halloween box recently. The Thanksgiving "Easy Entertaining" gift box has wine biscuits, pumpkin souffle mix, dark chocolate infused Quinoa bars, and white cheddar popcorn among others. You can't find these at Walmart! But still…. what is this @WalmartLabs?
Who is @WalmartLabs?
The Walmart Goodies press release says this is an initiative from @Walmart Labs. @WalmartLabs is the "skunkworks" at Walmart that drives their Social, Mobile and Digital initiatives such as the Facebook MyLocalWalmart and ShoppyCat App. I read the press release twice and just couldn't figure out the connection here.
Opportunity for Artisan and Local Specialty Food Brands
Walmart had over $113 Billion in revenue the last quarter so why dabble in gift boxes? And why is their digital team running the show for specialty foods? I started to think that MAYBE this is a product launch and business growth opportunity for specialty foods companies. Then after my 3rd read I saw "… The new Goodies Co. box, created by @WalmartLabs, underscores Walmart's commitment to e-commerce and its use of social innovations to create new offerings for consumers." That told me there is way more to this than Walmart expanding into the gift box business and competing with the likes of Harry and David's Fruit of the Month Club.
So I called Walmart to get the scoop and was…
So Why is Walmart Launching Goodies?
I spoke with a very nice spokesperson from @Walmartlabs and explained I focus specialty foods and food entrepreneurs seeking to start and grow a food business and wanted to know how specialty food companies can sell to Goodies. So here are some answers to my question.
Are the items shipped also available in-store?
Not at this time.
Does Goodies open up new product launch opportunities for specialty food brands… pitching their products to @WalmartLabs?
The spokesperson says this is a great way for specialty foods vendors to get consumer insight about their products. So asked "Why is that"? Goodies is one big sampling program that allows people who get the boxes to see and taste your products on a mass scale and far greater than what you can do with in-store sampling and demo's. The social media component here: subscribers are encouraged to review the products… this Oogies Gourmet Popcorn page is an example of product information and consumer reviews. Already the Goodies Twitter page has over 17,000 followers and no doubt I see them linking consumer reviews to Tweets in the near future.
As the number one grocery chain, Walmart knows how to sell food and they see Goodies as a way to understand the consumer experience with new products. It is also a way for Walmart to use "crowdsourcing" to discover new foods from local, artisan and specialty food companies. Ahh… so now I am starting to see some connections here for the company.
Goodies will be selling food online to their subscribers… the full-size versions of what comes in the gift box. So what should we call this? Social enabled New Product Launch? Customers who review a product do have an incentive to get more social… when subscribers post reviews they can earn loyalty points redeemable in the future for boxes or purchasing items in their store. The "store" was a bit ambiguous since Walmart is not saying whether these items have the path to transition into Walmart.com or select Walmart Stores.
This looks like a way for local and artisan food brands to execute a pre-launch of their items to thousands of customers.
How to Sell Your Food Products to Goodies
I asked them how specialty food brands can make a sales pitch to Goodies/Walmart. Do they need to have a certain pitch protocol? Like a typical new product sales presentation to a retail buyer?
They appear to understand small specialty foods companies so the process is really simple.
- Create a short blurb on your product. Tell them what makes your product unique… something that would not be typical in a grocery store. Is it original, artisan, organic.
- Talk about why the product is special. Goodies gift boxes go out monthly so the program changes and as you can see from their launch they are now focusing on seasonal oriented samples.
- Include great images to make your sales pitch all the more descriptive.
- Tell them your story . Why? Well In every Goodies box there is a card that describes the product and it's story. People love stories so really think about what makes your story compelling to differentiate your product and to get those gift box recipients converted to paying customers!
- When you are done with the above send them your product pitch email@example.com. I suggest you create a short Word Document vs. creating the pitch inside the email.
- If you have never made a product pitch use the Small Food Business Pitch article as a guideline.
Questions To Ponder
Is Walmart looking at Goodies as a way to sell food products from smaller brands to establish their feasibility for distribution into Walmart stores as they prove themselves? Is Walmart looking down the road to better compete with Whole Foods and Trader Joes? Are they looking at Bed Bath and Beyonds World Market stores in a store? Target has been experimenting with boutiques, The Shops at Target, where search for and then work with small independent retailers who make specialty products and feature their brands in selected Target Stores.
In the last year, the group has unveiled Polaris, a search engine built from the ground up and used on Walmart.com; Shopycat, a social gift finder; Classrooms by Walmart, a program to make back-to-school shopping easer; Get on the Shelf, a crowdsourcing contest to unearth new products for Walmart; and Social Genome, tools that use social chatter to select items to be carried by Walmart.