Walmart discovers a unique craft beer on Instagram. Will this become a thing?
Retailers like to tell their customers the lengths they go to to find unique products to sell.
Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer publication, for example, frequently offers backstories on trips abroad its buyers take to find new products to introduce at the chain.
In Walmart’s case, the chain’s merchants rely on a variety of resources when they go looking for new products, such as market visits, line reviews and trade shows, according to a company blog post. The company has also run Shark Tank-like events to give entrepreneurs the opportunity to pitch new products directly to the chain.
Walmart has made use of social media to find new items, as well. The company’s blog tells the story of how Adrienne Freeman, who purchases craft beers sold by stores in Walmart’s central U.S. region, discovered the Weathered Souls Brewing Co.
Ms. Freeman found San Antonio-based Weathered Souls on an Instagram post that listed Black-owned companies.
“My main role is to be an advocate for the customer,” said Ms. Freeman. “Every day, I am trying to discover new beers the customers want and what innovations are happening in the industry, all while trying to get customers the best price.”
Ms. Freeman saw items from Weathered Souls’ line as a good fit for Walmart based on taste and price, but she also saw more.
The craft brewer developed an initiative last May called Black is Beautiful, which aims to end racial injustice in local communities by donating a portion of the sales from its Black is Beautiful stout to organizations engaged in that work.
Weathered Souls also got others to participate. It published a recipe for brewing and packaging its Black is Beautiful stout so that other breweries could follow its lead. To date, nearly 1,200 breweries across the U.S. and around the planet are participating.
“Weathered Souls not only was able to do something to drive the conversation but also backed it up with a commitment to their community,” said Ms. Freeman.
The Black is Beautiful stout is sold seasonally in 300 Walmarts across the U.S. and in 55 Texas stores year-round.
- How One Merchant Tapped into Small Breweries Making a Big Difference – Walmart
- Auction winner will get to pitch products to Walmart’s CEO – RetailWire
- Are Shark Tank-like competitions a path to retail innovation? – RetailWire
- Did Walmart’s ‘Open Call’ discover a hit made in America? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Has the pandemic changed how retailers source new products? Do you see Instagram and other social media sites becoming more important in retailer searches for new products?
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13 Comments on "Walmart discovers a unique craft beer on Instagram. Will this become a thing?"
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President, founder and CEO Interactive Edge
The pandemic has accelerated how retailers source new products but the process has always been there. Retailers use social listening tools to assess what people are talking about, what’s hot and what’s not, and then do a good deal of research to understand where those products are being bought and sold and try to predict what markets they will play well in. It is not easy and that is why we are using many data sources and tools to help bring emerging brands to market.
Director of Marketing, Körber
With traditional supply chains disrupted, it makes sense to look for other sources for new and interesting products, and what better place to look than social media to see what the customer wants/likes and to discover new potential products. An added bonus is the initiative behind this craft beer – kudos to Walmart on this one!
Vice President, Brand Development - IGA, Inc.
The retail model of discovering new products is broken and needs to be moved into the 20th century — oh, that’s right, we’re in the 21st century. The world has become much more ripe with innovation; it’s time retail poked its head up. So much product innovation is happening and much of it never makes it to store shelves. Especially with regard to women and minority-owned businesses who have not had the same opportunities. Let’s hope the pandemic changes how retail sources new products and does not simply wait for innovation to walk in the front door.
Managing Partner, Advanced Simulations
I’m not sure this is a pandemic inspired idea or whether it was inevitable. Innovation is always assumed to be much easier than it actually is, which is why we don’t see much of it. If social media can point towards a new idea that otherwise might not get a hearing, good on them.
Professor, International Business, Guizhou University of Finance & Economics and University of Sanya, China.
Social media reflects the interests of the users. The magnitude of participation is astounding. Naturally, it would eventually be a primary source of new products. The pandemic has merely accelerated and provided the focus that would have developed over the next several years.
Social media offers something that a retailer doesn’t have to guess about — interest by their potential customers. For the future, a smart retailer should have a social media discovery team to mine what is out there.
Director, Retail Market Insights, Aptos
Pandemic or no, retailers must look for new ways to source new products, including social media. Product differentiation is so difficult, it has become imperative to find new ways to add uniqueness to product lineups. In addition to monitoring vendors’ social feeds, monitoring key customers’ social media feeds is also a great way to discover their interests – and possible new vendors as well.
This is not new. H-E-B and a few other retailers have been using social media to find the next “it” product for a while now – pandemic or not. What is cool is that some of the people have created the product when they have been furloughed or let go from their job because of the pandemic. A success is always good to see in these circumstances.
Retail Industry Strategy, Esri
I don’t think this has anything to do with the pandemic, this is a retailer trying to get a scoop on their competition by mining data about what consumers are thinking and talking about. These days consumers, are making their conversations and thoughts public and putting all this data out there for savvy companies like Walmart to find, interpret and inform their merchandising teams. Well done. Walmart.
B2B Content Strategist
Absolutely. The pandemic pushed retailers to digital product sourcing for efficient processes and agile assortments.
For speed to market, retailers now rely on online resources to discover what consumers want. Terrific products can pop up anywhere, including social media, dedicated retail platforms, brands’ e-commerce sites and online marketplaces.
User-generated content and reviews also give retailers powerful insights so they can promptly respond to consumers’ changing tastes. Retailers save time and gain visibility into what’s truly popular by sourcing online.
Strategy & Operations Transformation Leader
If you are looking for inspiration and innovative products and experience, then look no further than social media for that. Before and during the pandemic, consumers found plenty of inspiration on Instagram, TikTok, and other social media platforms. Also, indie brands and creative teams now have the reach and platform to find new customers, and traditional retailers such as Walmart are wise to form collaborative partnerships.
Social commerce is not a short-term phenomenon, and it’s a selling model that is here to stay. As we remain in a quarantine mode, we should expect that influencer livestreaming will emerge as a selling strategy, similar to the models that Alibaba and others have leveraged in the Asian markets.
Principal, KIZER & BENDER Speaking
Social media absolutely has changed the way retailers source new product – it’s an entire world of new item potential. A big chain would be smart to have a team that does nothing but scour social medias looking for new ideas. Rachel Shechtman’s original STORY did a version of this in-store with makers and small companies to source product.
Still, sourcing via social media might be new to big retailers but working with craftspeople has always been a best practice for independents. This is what makes indie stores’ selections stand apart from those sold in chains and Big Boxes.
Retail Transformation Thought Leader, Advisor, & Strategist
If consumers find inspiration for trying new products via social media, why shouldn’t retailers? In fact, I’d argue that DTC brands often leverage Twitter as a means to be “discovered” by brick and mortar retailers they’d like to partner with to reach more customers. So yes, retailers can and should leverage social media as a way to source new products, just as they should be adapting to any means with which they can find new products in the 21st century!
Retail Industry Thought Leader
Since retailers can’t send teams to obscure corners of the earth to find their next best thing, digital and social media sites will have to do. And, this is not a bad thing. Increasingly, homebound consumers are turning to digital media to learn just about everything. Why not craft beers? Very smart (but not surprising) for Walmart to be attuned to this and move on it quickly. However, there are a million craft beer stories out there. So, it’s not just about getting your product online but its also about having meaning and purpose behind your brand that resonates with retailers and their consumers. Weathered Souls delivered impressively on brand purpose; no doubt raising the bar for stories to come.