Working in grocery - one of the most competitive, low-margin industries on earth - we are always trying to understand our competition.
Green Zebra is a small format healthy and convenient neighborhood store.
The original Green Zebra Grocery.
At first glance, we are the opposite of Walmart. The easy way of thinking would be to say "people who shop at Walmart don't shop at Green Zebra, so we have nothing to learn from them."
One of the emerging trends I believe we are seeing is the rise of the crossover grocery shopper.
Crossover Shopper: A person with low brand loyalty who shops at multiple places which they select based on A) their worldview and self identity B) what they're buying and C) price and convenience.
Crossover shoppers use Walmart, Costco, and/or Amazon for big stock up trips or specialty items, and also make frequent trips to Whole Foods, Green Zebra, or their local Farmer's Market for fresh fare and other everyday needs.
As a company that is serious about understanding the psychology of our customer and the landscape of our competition, we must ask ourselves - why should (not 'would' but 'should') someone shop somewhere else?
Let's enter the mind of a Walmart evangelist.
Without judgement or irony can we make a compelling case as to why someone should choose Walmart?
This is a good exercise because it forces you to confront your preconceived notions and enter an alternate worldview.
In doing so you not only expand your own mind, but you become more in-tune and empathetic with your potential customers, which allows you to build a better business.
So - why Walmart?
The original Walmart. Photo taken by Bobak Ha'Eri.
1. Walmart has created more jobs than any other company in America.
Walmart is the largest private employer in the United States…by a long shot. They employ 2.2M people – which is nearly 1.5% of the American workforce and 4 times as much as the runner up. The fact that Walmart provides jobs for more than 1 out of every 100 americans should be celebrated.
2. Walmart makes groceries more affordable to more people than any other company in history.
Over 3/4 of the population lives paycheck and paycheck. But thanks to Walmart, those paychecks can stretch a little further. Whether that extra bit goes into savings, pays off credit card debt, or simply buys more food to sustain a family, we can all be thankful for a store that makes food and groceries more affordable for everyone.
3. Walmart is a beacon of human ingenuity.
Walmart is a truly astonishing model of efficiency, supply chain management, and distribution. It is an incredibly fine-tuned operation, and really is a modern marvel for anyone interested in science, business, logistics, or operations. More companies would benefit from studying Walmart.
4. Walmart is the most environmentally friendly, sustainable big grocer.
When Walmart started stocking organic lettuce in all of their stores, they were single handedly responsible for changing millions of acres of farmland from pesticide laden, conventionally farmed crops to organic, pesticide free farmland.
Their long term sustainability goals are ambitious and laudable. Their sustainability goals include working toward 100% renewable power and zero waste.
Perhaps most impactfully, they are serious about responsible sourcing up and down their supply chain. When Walmart makes a sourcing change in all of their stores, the impact is massive. From an impact standpoint, Walmart is able to do more for the global environment with one new initiative than most environmental non-profits could ever dream of doing.
And this isn’t just good marketing, they walk the walk. From sustainable seafood to safer textiles to more environmentally sound electronics, Walmart really is making massive positive impact in the global supply chain.
5. Walmart has great customer service.
They practice what is known as the “10 foot attitude.” Whenever a Walmart associate comes within 10 feet of a customer, they look that customer in the eye, greet them, and ask if they can help them.
Sam Walton was a thoughtful, hardworking man who put his customer first.
Want to learn more about him? Try reading his biography. Full disclosure, I haven’t read it yet, but I just added it to my list, and from the reviews I read, it seems like a fascinating read.
6. Walmart makes travel more affordable for people with RVs.
They allow RVs to park in their lots for free overnight.
7. Walmart is one of our country’s biggest taxpayers.
Walmart paid more taxes than all but 4 other companies (Exxon, Chevron, Apple, Wells Fargo) in 2014. They paid $8,000,000,000 (billion) to local, state, and federal governments. That is money which funds our schools, social services, roads, and so much more. Thank you Walmart.
Is Walmart perfect? No. No company is perfect. But you’re not going to find a grocery store that on the whole has a bigger positive impact on this country.
This post is adapted from a piece I wrote as part of my altMBA coursework.
UPDATE: The follow up post, Why You Shouldn't Shop at Walmart, is available here.