If you like to shop for snacks and food products online, Walmart may have a great solution for you that will allow you to sample artisan food products and exotic treats which may not be made available to you at a reasonable price elsewhere. They are calling the tentative service, Goodies, and, as with many specialty services, it comes with a membership fee.
The service will launch sometime in July, but the price of a monthly subscription has not yet been determined. According to Advertising Age, Walmart will use a trial and error method to decide what to carry more of and what to avoid altogether. Using this method, the consumer directly drives what will be offered, and I'm guessing, the subscription price will go through an evolutionary process based on demand as well.
Walmart has already experienced success using this model using social analytics developed by its @WalmartLabs e-commerce and mobile R&D unit. Essentially, they monitor social networks like Twitter and Facebook to find out what products consumers like or are mentioning most often. In return, they market those items in their stores and online. Now, we're talking innovation. I like it.
I think there's an interesting paradox developing regarding Walmart. They are infamous as shrewd negotiator, as far as their overseers supply chain goes. Walmart can really squeeze the pennies out of their contractors. The same holds true for their workforce; employees are notoriously underpaid and we consistently see cases of racial and sexual discrimination being brought against the company. There's also a larger question about the quality of healthcare and other benefits being made available to their workers, but I digress.
Then, there is this other side of Walmart who seems to be bringing us, what I believe to be, groundbreaking revelations in the way we shop and gain access to services. The Goodies service discussed above is a prime example. Artisan treats from Walmart brought to you via an interactive platform based on consumer's interests and demands. Please, there's no one else doing this on a large scale (though, there should be).
Last month, Walmart introduced a new program for people who don't have a credit card or debit card, where they can still take advantage of online shopping. If you don't think there's a huge demand for a service like that, you must not live in the real world. It doesn't stop there.
Have you heard of Vudu. Yes, streaming video is not Walmart's invention, but guess who the first brand to cover the most territory internationally is going to be? No, not Netflix. It's going to be Walmart's Vudu.
To sweeten the deal even more, Walmart also offers a DVD to digital conversion exchange in stores. What does that mean? It means you bring them your dirty old copy of Pulp Fiction on DVD and they exchange it for viewing rights to an online streaming version able to be accessed anywhere you can get an internet signal.
Come on folks, is Walmart really one of the most innovative companies in society? The answer is, yes. If you are wondering what the present and future of retail sales and services is, look no further than the superstore that currently occupies every major city in the U.S. and well beyond. Walmart is out-innovating almost every retail business out there.
I'm a little bit intimidated by the fact that a huge corporate entity like Walmart holds so much influence and clout over what happens in our world, but at the same time, I can't deny that they are a monstrous and innovative force that everyone will soon have to reckon with, like them or not.