Getting your products featured on Walmart store shelves is hard enough as it is. Keeping them there is even harder. With so much competition for this coveted retail space, the margin for error is thin for any CPG brand, which puts pressure on suppliers to avoid the many pitfalls that can hurt a retail brand’s relationship with Walmart buyers.
When it comes to the buyer-supplier relationship, Walmart likes to make its own rules. Whether you have an existing relationship with Walmart, or have hopes of selling to Walmart in the future, it’s worth doing your research on how to approach these relationships to bolster your business prospects. Here are six mistakes Walmart suppliers should always avoid when working with buyers:
1. Don’t schmooze or try to win them over with gifts.
This isn’t a suggestion—it’s a hard-and-fast rule. Due to Walmart’s company policies, buyers are not allowed to accept gifts of any kind. As a supplier, you’re expected to know and respect this rule. Presenting a Walmart buyer with a gift could potentially endanger your company’s relationship with the retail giant.
2. Don’t be late on deliveries or run out of inventory.
Walmart understands that when customers visit a store to find a desired product is not in stock, it’s not just the sale of the product that’s lost—the entire customer relationship could be at risk. To support its own store performance and customer satisfaction ratings, the retailer has created an On-Time, In-Full (OTIF) program to score vendors on their product deliveries.
If your company is consistently late on deliveries and stores and its products are routinely out of stock, Walmart buyers may aim to replace your products with those of a more reliable competitor. To avoid this, you’ll want to take a close look at your shipping and inventory management to make sure Walmart deliveries always arrive on time.
3. Don’t let another retailer undercut Walmart’s everyday low price.
Walmart aggressively promotes its everyday low prices to customers, and it expects suppliers to make sure they hold true. If another retail chain—even a smaller regional business—undercuts Walmart’s prices, you’d better come up with an explanation for Walmart’s buyers.
The retailers ultimately has the final say on the retail price. However, you need to stay on top of marketplace pricing and take steps to discourage other retailers from selling your products at a lower price. However, you need to stay on top of marketplace pricing and take steps to discourage other retailers from selling your products at a lower price than what Walmart is able to offer.
4. Don’t overlook the need for marketing and promotional support.
Even the best products don’t sell themselves—especially if customers don’t have an existing relationship with your brand. To generate sales revenue through Walmart and Walmart.com, you need a marketing strategy in place to generate product awareness. This should include an omnichannel approach that combines social media promotion, email marketing, and other digital channels with in-store signage and in-store promotional support.
Walmart.com product listings need to be supported with product descriptions, images, and other enhanced content that meets the retailer’s specifications and delivers the right marketing message to your customers. This marketing support needs to hit the ground running to provide necessary lead-in support for your products: A product’s first three weeks on the shelves at Walmart are crucial to its future retail growth. Use marketing to drive strong performance numbers, or be prepared to have your product’s potential called into question.
5. Don’t forget to walk the stores.
Walmart buyers emphasize the importance of watching customers interact with products in stores. Suppliers should make frequent visits to Walmart locations to see how customers engage with their products, and to make sure that their products are properly displayed and marketed.
Visiting stores is also one of the best ways to keep tabs on your competition. Check out their shelf displays and in-store promotions, as well as any ad materials, and gain any competitive advantage you can find.
6. Don’t ask buyers to do their own research.
Yes, buyers may have deep knowledge of your target products category, but that doesn’t mean you should expect them to know everything. As someone with a relationship with these buyers, you can curry favor by adding value as a business relationship.
Don’t be afraid to provide buyers with marketplace insights, category trends, and other data points that will improve their understanding of now only your product’s potential, but of the entire category itself. When you’re delivering value as a business relationship, it can incentivize buyers to keep you around—and to keep your products on store shelves.
7. Don’t waste your Walmart buyers’ time with poor communication.
Walmart buyers are busy people. As a supplier, it never hurts to do everything you can to make their lives easier, which means having information at the ready and communicating in a clear, concise manner. These buyers are among the busiest you’ll find in the retail industry, and their time should not be taken for granted.
Don’t leave them in the dark, but make sure you streamline communications to minimize the amount of time they have to spend talking to your business. When the buyer-supplier relationship is an easy one, buyers might be more inclined to keep doing business with you.
Walmart buyers are smart, disciplined, data-driven professionals who know their products and departments as well as anyone you’ll meet. Managing this supplier-buyer relationship will help you get into the buyer’s good graces and open a wider window of success for your business. On the other hand, making any of the mistakes above could put your relationship with Walmart on thin ice.