Why it matters:
- There are more than 33 million small businesses in America, with record numbers of new small businesses formed in the past two years.
- During the pandemic, small businesses began seeking easier and more digital solutions for tasks such as ordering, inventory control, and delivery management.
- Walmart’s new Walmart Business platform offers features like multi-user accounts and spend analytics that are specifically tailored to business needs.
Walmart, a few years ago, looked at its customer base and decided it needed an e-commerce platform designed for the type of shopper who might need to place a rush order for a pallet of printer paper, a carton of paper towels, and a cake for an impromptu retirement party.
That target audience was the many small and medium-sized businesses and nonprofits already shopping at Walmart stores, Ashley Hubka, Walmart Senior Vice President and General Manager of the new Walmart Business platform, told CO—.
“One thing that’s been true of Walmart for a long time is we have millions of businesses and nonprofits that shop Walmart in our stores and online,” Hubka said.
“As we looked at their shopping behavior and size of the market, and as Walmart’s strategy evolved, the time was really right to develop a unique offering and site for small and medium-sized businesses and nonprofits,” she said.
“What we are able to do is take the best of Walmart – our assortment, our supplier relationships, our pricing, our supply chain and logistics, our store footprint that puts us within 10 miles of 90% of the U.S. population,” and add tools businesses need, Hubka said.
Those tools include features such as the ability for up to five users to share an account, larger quantity packaging, shared payment methods, and spend analytics.
The world’s biggest retailer taps into the small business boom
Small businesses are being born at a record pace, with 10.5 million small business applications being filed in 2021 and 2022, according
to the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Walmart Business launched quietly in September 2022, and Walmart began actively marketing the site at the beginning of this year.
Walmart doesn’t release information on how many users have registered for the site since the launch, but Hubka said the response thus far has been encouraging.
“We’re seeing significant numbers of businesses joining us,” she said. A good percentage of those that sign up for a free trial of the premium membership are converting to paid memberships, Hubka said.
Verified businesses and nonprofits can use Walmart Business for free, or they can upgrade to Walmart Business+ (plus) for $98, similar to the way Walmart offers a Walmart+
membership to household shoppers.
What we are able to do is take the best of Walmart – our assortment, our supplier relationships, our pricing, our supply chain and logistics, our store footprint that puts us within 10 miles of 90% of the U.S. population,” and add tools businesses need.
Ashley Hubka, Walmart Senior Vice President and General Manager of Walmart Business
Hubka outlined how Walmart Business works and Walmart’s plans to grow the platform, with CO—.
How does someone start using Walmart Business?
Businesses and nonprofits register and provide information to show they are a verified business or nonprofit, such as their tax ID number.
Even before registering, however, “you can come and look at our site and see our assortment and see our pricing,” Hubka said. “That’s very consistent with Walmart’s transparency and our belief in our price position.”
Once verified, businesses can remain as a free account, or upgrade to a plus membership.
[Read: Why Amazon, Google, and Other Big Businesses Have Launched Accelerators to Help Minority-Owned Startups]
What are the benefits of a plus membership?
Walmart Business+ members get free shipping with no minimums on all orders, free delivery or pickup from store for orders over $35, 2% rewards on orders of $250 or more, and 5% discounts on repeat subscription items, Hubka said.
Walmart Business+ members also have access to analytics “that allow them to look at their spend with us and slice it and dice it in different ways that lets them have a good handle on it,” Hubka said.
“They can look at their spend by user, by product category, by time periods, so it helps them manage their budgets.”
What size businesses is Walmart targeting?
“Our initial focus was on small to medium,” Hubka said, but she added that Walmart hopes to grow the site to serve a “very broad range of industries and sizes.”
“We are starting to offer higher quantities of items,” and are adding new items to the site, she said. “As we do that, we can appeal to larger and more complex businesses.”
[Read: How Supply Chain Tech Helped 3 Growing Companies Drive Profitable Sales]
What can you order on Walmart Business?
The site sells everything from office supplies and industrial shelving to sodas, snacks, and fresh fruit for the break room. It also offers installation and assembly services for items like furniture or television monitors.
In talking to businesses, what have you learned about their needs?
“We hear a lot of needs. The most resonant [are], ‘Do you have the items I need, are they in stock, and do you have good pricing?’” Hubka said. “That is ever present in retail generally, and for businesses as well.”
“The second thing we hear is a theme of being in control,” she said. “I need these items and I don’t want to run out. I want my people to be confident it’s in the break room or it’s in the stock room.”
“The third one is the importance they put on communication and trust with their suppliers,” Hubka said.
Businesses are saying, “’Keep me informed. Tell me where that item is. If ever something is going to be late or delivered at a different time, keep me informed,’” Hubka said. They are looking, she said, for a partner that will gain their trust, and “understand my business in the context in which I’m operating.”
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