Posted by Dale Buss on January 23, 2012 12:25 PM
For a small manufacturer, a spot on the shelves of Walmart or a pixel packet on Walmart.com can be transformational. That's why there is practically a cottage industry around Bentonville, Ark., just serving the needs of the thousands of would-be vendors who trek to Wal-Mart headquarters there every year in an attempt to lure or cajole one of the company's buyers into taking a flyer on the "next great product."
Now, Walmart wants to make it easier for some of these innovations to make their way onto its product list as well as, perhaps, land some hit merchandise that might never have made it through all the hoops before. So the company's @WalmartLabs R&D unit is launching an initiative to open its doors to great product ideas: Get on the Shelf, a program inviting would-be suppliers small and large to submit product ideas along with supporting videos in a campaign that unfolds in phases through April.
Consumers are invited to vote online on which products they'd like to see Walmart pick up, and the company will end up selling three of them online plus feature a grand prize winner on its home page and in some stores. Entrants will be free to get votes however they want — and, in the process, will demonstrate their marketing savvy to Walmart.
"Walmart has the best products at everyday low prices but we know there are some great undiscovered products that have not yet reached our shelves," said Venky Harinarayan, senior vice president of Walmart global e-commerce and co-head of @WalmartLabs, the company's digital venture, in a press release. "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 and reach millions of shoppers nationwide."
Walmart insists that last year's viral-video campaign by startup OraBrush, in an attempt to force itself onto Walmart's shelves, wasn't a factor. But it did encourage Walmart executives to believe that there could be more OraBrushes out there.
And now they've got a better shot at showing Walmart what they can do. Check out some of the entrants here, and let us know what you think of this crowdsourcing project in the comments below.