How Walmart could be more than just a Friday night hangout

How Walmart could be more than just a Friday night hangout

Just talking about their crowdsourced delivery idea could help change Walmart’s brand perception in the minds of Millennials.

I still don’t think of Walmart as a progressive, modern brand. I know about all the groundbreaking steps they’re taking in the name of sustainability, but when I think of the shopping experience, I think of a big warehouse with unflattering lighting where I buy dog food and cleaning products and get out as quickly as possible – oh, and the parking lot where high school kids hang out. I don’t dislike Walmart in theory; it’s just not a particularly “cool” place to shop. I, along with most of my 20-something friends, really like brands that emphasize design, presentation and have a distinct (younger) brand personality – and Walmart just doesn’t fall into that group.

However, I am into low prices and companies that have a strong sustainability message, and I definitely like trying out the latest innovations in shopping. So when I heard last spring that Walmart was going to test crowdsourcing for delivery of online orders, I thought it was pretty cool.

Here’s how it works – when I check out at a Walmart store, I can provide my address and opt to take some extra packages with me and drop them off at an online customer’s house on my way home. In return, I get a discount on my in-store purchases.

I was recently reminded of this trial during our Inner Circle Symposium this past week. During this annual gathering of sustainability leaders across several industries, we identified some major themes from our 2013 research, and one of them was that business models are changing. And, in particular, the sharing economy is changing the model of traditional consumption.

In our last Eco Pulse, we found that the number of people saying they will begin participating in alternatives to traditional ownership is expected to increase in the near future. Walmart’s idea of sharing trips to stores could very well be a part of this growing movement. As a Millennial, I almost take the sharing economy for granted, having relied on companies such as Zipcar and Airbnb for strictly budgeted college vacations. The idea of sharing a trip from the grocery store with my neighbors isn’t a big leap.

Plus, corporate reputation continues to increase in importance when it comes to purchase decisions. Walmart has done much over the past several years to push sustainable practices with their suppliers and dramatically cut energy consumption in their stores. But they’ve been a bit slow in competing with Amazon on the e-commerce front, and they aren’t seen as the hippest brand around. Millennials expect sustainability to be baked in to a company’s everyday practices. This could be a sustainability innovation that melds with the growing sharing economy and attracts a younger, greener customer base.

This is a great example of the business case for sustainability. Sure, green-minded customers like the idea of fewer trucks/cars on the road, but this could help Walmart avoid millions in transportation costs.

Many other articles (like this one from Reuters) address numerous legal and logistical barriers to this plan. It’s likely it will never come to fruition in more than a few pilot locations, but it’s an innovative idea that grabbed my attention – and made me think of Walmart differently.

About the Author

Bartie Scott

Bartie is a former contributor to Shelton Insights.

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Suzanne Shelton

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Suzanne is the voice and the vision of Shelton Group. Drawing on her extensive experience in energy and the environment – and 25+ years in the marketing and advertising industry – Suzanne provides high-level strategic insights for our clients and guidance for our research and creative departments. She regularly speaks at conferences around the country, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and the International Builders’ Show, and serves as a guest columnist for publications like Fast Company, Green Builder and

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A sustainability strategy consultant since 1993, Scot has served as non-profit leader, as a partner in an environmental marketing firm that he grew and sold, and as an executive in a multi-billion-dollar, international company. He has published dozens of articles and case studies, was co-author of the original “Sins of Greenwashing” study, testified before Congress, and been quoted on NPR, Good Morning America, CNN, The New York Times, Business Week, and the Wall Street Journal. Scot was also highlighted in an Emmy award-winning documentary on sustainable purchasing.

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