Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Get On The Shelf: Ongoing Innovation

At WalmartLabs, we’re always trying to innovate. And we enjoy creating opportunities for innovators, whether they work for Walmart or not. The GOTS (Get On The Shelf) team pushes the envelope in creating initiatives that give a stage to interesting products, spread public awareness of suppliers and Walmart through new engaging channels, and entertain and empower our customers.

Last year, as an experiment, @WalmartLabs built a contest that invited individuals and businesses to submit online video pitches for their products not currently carried by Walmart and asked people to vote for their favorites. Entrepreuners and small business owners from around the country competed  shot for the opportunity to sell their product through and/or Walmart Stores. The results of that first Get On The Shelf contest were astounding. There was a groundswell of interest with over 4,000 submissions from all over the country. Contestants campaigned through social media and other channels. The contest went viral online and also saw an enormous amount of traditional media coverage in both national and local media, both print and broadcast.
Today, the Grand Prize winner, Humankind Water, is selling in hundreds of stores in the Northeast. This bottled water brand donates 100% of its net profits to developing clean water sources around the world. They have seen a massive boost to their efforts since the launch of the contest. The other winners, PlateTopper and SnapIt, won the opportunity to be carried on In addition to selling these winning products online, Walmart has also begun to offer them in stores. PlateTopper is available in stores nationwide and SnapIt has received a commitment to be carried as a promotional item in all Walmart optometry centers nationwide. Even contestants who did not win have reported large benefits from the visibility they received from participation in the contest. 

For the engineers out there, there are very big challenges with running a large scale contest, including handling large volumes of votes reliably and without downtime, not to mention tools for administration. Not many people have ever done anything at this scale.

Since the initial U.S. GOTS contest, the team has been focused on applying our experience and state-of-the-art contest technology to various additional initiatives. The first thing we did was to go global. Yihaodian in China launched a contest in October, announcing the winners in conjunction with the Chinese Golden Week holiday. We are scheduled to help several countries all over the world run contests in the coming months!

We have also developed similar initiatives here in the US. This past Holiday season, we partnered with photo card merchants to help them find new and promising greeting card designers. The Walmart Holiday Photo Card Design Challenge had some amazing designs entered. The winning designs went on sale within a matter of days and performed well (in fact, one became of the top selling cards)! Be on the look out for some new and exciting designs from these designers soon!

And right now, we are supporting a Home Office team in starting the first worldwide Walmart Associate Talent Search, a showcase to help discover and appreciate the amazing talent of our 2.2 million associates in 27 countries around the globe. We’re also exploring how we can use our expertise to execute contests designed for companies whose products we sell at Walmart.

In the end, we love the opportunity to innovate and attempt to provide visibility, empowerment, and opportunity to suppliers and customers worldwide. Without giving away too much, in addition to the several international contests, talent show, and U.S. initiatives, we can definitely promise that bigger and better initiatives are in the works, including some things that may surprise you… Stay tuned!