Walmart Hosts Open Innovation ‘Talent’ Contest for New Products

Published Feb-25-13

A 2012 open innovation contest for original and standout products to be sold in Walmart stores and on its website.

Walmart, United States

The Story:

Walmart Hosts Open Innovation ‘Talent’ Contest for New Products Space on a Walmart shelf is a rare and much sought after thing. Every year thousands of would-be vendors make countless pitches to the American multinational retail chain hoping to convince sales teams that their product is the “next big thing”.

Only a few can be optioned, which means that some excellent products don’t make it. So Walmart created the ‘Get on the Shelf’ contest for participants to pitch directly to customers.

It was an open innovation call to manufacturers, inventors, entrepreneurs, small businesses and anyone with product ideas - to make it easier for them to get their wares on the company’s shelves and product list.

“For a long time, the ability to get a product into a retail store was at the sole discretion of the store buyer,” said Venky Harinarayan, senior vice president of Walmart Global e-commerce. “We are removing these barriers by giving anyone a chance to launch their product at Walmart and reach millions of shoppers nationwide.”

Open Innovation Opportunity

In order to compete companies had to submit a video of their product to the contest website, and consumers were invited to vote on which ones they would like to see on store shelves.

More than 4,000 videos were submitted from across the USA, and no fewer than one million votes were cast by the public. The products ranged from children’s toys and household wares to green products and clothes.

There were many inspiring, innovative and practical ideas as well as a handful of unusual ones – for example, zombie repellent for children afraid of ‘monsters hiding in closets’ and boots for puppies that were similar in style to Ugg boots.

There were two rounds of voting which whittled the thousands down to ten, and then ten down to three winners.

The three most popular items were:

Humankind Water – a Philadelphia-based bottled water company that gives 100% of its net profits toward providing clean, safe drinking water to underdeveloped parts of the world.

PlateTopper – invented by Michael Tseng who produced his prototype whilst a student at Princeton University in 2005. PlateTopper is an air tight food cover to protect food on the plate when you want to save meals, leftovers and snacks. You just press down on the seal to create the airtight environment.

SnapIt Eyeglass Repair Kit – invented by Nancy Tedeschi of East Wenatchee, Washington. The innovation is a reinvention of the tiny screws that hold glasses in place, but are hard to handle if they come loose. The kit contains feeder tabs that guide the small screws into their positions, and are easily snapped off once the glasses are secure.

Each of the three prize winners has their products available for sale at The Grand Prize Winner, HumanKind Water earned a place on a select number of store shelves.

Contest Benefits

For the three winners the clear benefits were exposure to a wider audience and increased sales. The retailer also benefited, not only from being able to carry three new products that it knew customers wanted, but from the nationwide publicity the open innovation contest generated and the social media hits on various online networks.

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