Ever since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, Walmart WMT has been impressive.
Walmart has waived April rent for its in-store tenants, it has speed rushed contactless payment systems into operation, installed plexiglass barriers to protect employees and customers, and this week also began metering traffic flow into its stores.
Walmart, hands down, has set an example for others to follow.
No doubt impacted by the recent death of two of its store employees in Chicago from coronavirus on March 25, 2020, Walmart has charted a discernible course to do what needs to be done. As impressive as all the announcements have been over the last few weeks, what’s more impressive is the ethos to Walmart’s total approach. While many of its competitors are caught up in the nether world trap of trying to balance the needs of their customers, their employees, and their shareholders, Walmart has thrown these historically important naming conventions aside and instead focused on the one bucket that matters more than any of them do individually — community.
By taking a community-first approach, Walmart is showing the country that everyone is in the COVID-19 fight together and that no one person — not a customer, not an employee, and not a shareholder — matters more than anyone else. As long as the communities in which it operates thrive, Walmart knows it will thrive for the long-term too.
Nowhere was this on display more than in an email Walmart sent out earlier this week. While many retailers are either pushing discounts, ingredients for Easter dinner, or at-home fitness equipment in their emails, Walmart stepped above the fray with a simple, yet profoundly, worded email whose subject line read only: Grocery Delivery: all you need to know
At the time of publishing this piece, the video above had nearly 1.4 million views and was #41 on YouTube’s trending list. Why? Because those seven simple words capture the essence of the American spirit in a time of crisis — helping those that need help the most.
Ordering groceries online was not commonplace prior to COVID-19 nor is it commonplace today. According to a recent study conducted by Fabric, online grocery sales represented only 5% of the total grocery market prior to the outbreak. And, while online grocery has skyrocketed in the last few weeks, with 52% of Americans having now at last tried online grocery shopping at some point in their lives, an astounding 20% of the surveyed population just tried it for the first time.
Or, said another way, 48% of Americans still have not tried online grocery shopping, which is a statistic that should be alarming because online shopping is likely safer than going to a physical store, and especially when one considers the possible generational effects on the adoption curve and who is most at risk from the virus.
The fact that Walmart is taking the time to educate and do what it can to make online grocery a habit isn’t just good business. It is also humanitarian. And, dagnabbit, isn’t it great when those two things go together? It is.
And, that question should be the moral compass by which the grocery industry operates during this time of crisis. As stellar as what Walmart has done over these past few weeks is, Walmart and the rest of the industry need to continue to push the gas pedal on this cause.
The biggest risk out there is if people cannot get food or shop safely for the food that they need. Instead of hocking products like creatures of habit, grocers need to turn their websites first and foremost into places of information. They need to make like local news channels.
Their websites should read like local weather or traffic reports, and each regional or local grocer should make it their mission to provide such a report on the state of their affairs each night on the local news and on their local affiliates’ social media handles. This means information like: What stores are open, what populations can shop safely and when, what stores are pickup only, what the delivery leads times are, and who needs more labor to work certain stores or certain hours. This has become the most vital pieces of information Americans need to know.
As important as traffic jams are on Interstate 35W, few people care right now. The very same infrastructure could and should instead be used to put the nation’s mind at ease right now. Knowing when to shop, how to shop, and how to protect one’s families and loved ones are the most important things any retailer can do for the communities it serves right now. Emphasis on community.
Thank you, Walmart, for setting the pace.