Business

Northern Lights: Meet the Warm-Hearted Associates of Alaska

It takes a special team to stay happy in one of the coldest, darkest places in the country.

Even at temperatures of -30 F, associates in Alaska keep customers — and each other — smiling by taking outstanding customer service to the extreme.

Braving the Elements
At -30 F, common tasks like unloading trucks become an arctic adventure. Five minutes into the job, icicles are already forming on the flushed faces of these associates.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re an assistant manager or a sales associate,” said department manager for fabrics, crafts, and stationery, Chelsea Campbell. “We all share the responsibility of getting the job done for our customers.”

Service for Those Who Serve
This February marked 30 years of service for Command Sgt. Maj. Vento Collins, customer host at Store 2722 in Fairbanks, who started at the store in September as part of his transition away from active duty. The area’s strong military presence means that many families in Fairbanks are from other places.

“They’re not used to the conditions up here,” Vento said. “So they count on us to help them prepare for life in Alaska’s interior. We’re here for them, day and night.”

Ever-ready
Automotive associate Jessie Smith helps customer Cynthia King with 150 pounds of dog food for her three large-breed dogs.

“These associates are always ready to help,” Cynthia said. “That’s why I shop here.”


“I’ve lived in Fairbanks for 75 years,” said Pat Johnson, customer (shown left), with Dominique Green, department manager, furniture. “The associates here are so helpful.”


Alaska Bush Program
Across the state, many people – especially native populations – live in areas that can't be reached by road or ferry. Many don’t have access to the internet, and even for those who do, typical online shipping services wouldn’t make it to their homes.

That’s where the Bush Program comes in, serving customers who need everyday products — or even help with Christmas shopping — in these remote areas. Store 2722 in Fairbanks, Store 2071 in Anchorage, and Store 2710 in Ketchikan all have Bush programs.

“We serve the entire state,” says Trish Stipe, Bush department sales associate in Fairbanks. “The farthest customer would probably be about 600 miles from Fairbanks on the tiny island of Little Diomede.”

The Bush team in Fairbanks can take orders by phone, fax or email. Associates pick the requested items from the floor, ring them up, package them and process them through postage. They then divide the packages into zones by ZIP code, put them on a pallet, and wrap the pallet. The U.S. Postal Service delivers the pallets by plane or boat. (Except to places like Little Diomede Island, where planes don’t go — a helicopter or boat-plane has to deliver those packages.)

“Mostly, we are shipping nonperishable items,” Trish said. “Many of the people in these areas survive by hunting, fishing, and gathering berries.”

The team takes about 10 to 20 orders by phone each day. Another 10 or so Bush customers self-shop—that is, they make their own way to the store to shop and then have the Bush team ship their items back to their homes. Store 2710 in Ketchikan offers self-shop, takes phone orders, and typically serves customers closer to its specific region of the state. Store 2071 in Anchorage processes self-shop orders only and tends to serve the whole state, like the Fairbanks store does.

The Bush team’s favorite part of the program?

“We get to shop for customers,” Trish said. “One customer calls every December and asks us to Christmas shop for his family. He tells us the ages of his children, gives us a budget, and we take care of the rest. We’ll even stuff stockings!”

Editor’s note: A version of this story originally appeared in Walmart World, the magazine for Walmart associates.

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Business

Walmart's Secret Advantage to Serving You This Holiday Season

The holiday season is a busy time of year at Walmart.

From October through December, hundreds of millions of Americans will visit more than 5,000 Walmart locations to shop for gifts, grab last-minute items for holiday meals and take advantage of special deals that come but once a year.

Now, more than ever, Walmart and its associates will be ready for them.

Based on the success of a similar effort in 2016, the company announced it will be offering extra hours available this time of year to our current associates, rather than hiring thousands of seasonal workers.

“Our associates make the holidays come to life in our stores, and we are thankful for everything they do,” said Judith McKenna, Chief Operating Officer. “As we head into our busiest time of the year, we know associates are ready to deliver for our customers and help give them a memorable and affordable Christmas.”

These extra hours will help staff traditional roles like cashier and stocker, as well as newly created, technology-empowered positions in Walmart’s growing online pickup department.

Here are three big reasons why the company is investing in its people for Holiday 2017:

  1. The way customers shop is rapidly changing. Walmart expects new services like Online Grocery Pickup to take off with the holiday cooking crowd, making the company’s specially trained personal shoppers an even more indispensable part of the team.
  2. The company’s Holiday Helpers program was a huge success last year, and in 2017 Walmart is increasing the number of Helpers across its fleet of stores. These associates are dedicated to helping customers get through stores faster by finding the shortest checkout line and opening registers as needed. They’ll even run to grab items customers may have forgotten, so they don’t lose their place.
  3. Walmart has increased its focus on service through new training, tools and technology. Thousands of associates have completed the company’s Pathways and Academy programs, which prepares them to more effectively serve customers during this busy season.

“The holidays are a special time of year for our customers and associates,” McKenna said. “This is what working in retail is all about, and we know our people have the passion to do even more this year.”

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Business

Found: The Story Behind Our New Natural Beauty Routine

If you’ve ever tried shopping for naturally-inspired beauty products, you know the struggle.

They can be expensive. They’re sometimes not as effective. Makeup colors can be limited, and guess what? That means matching skin tones is a challenge.

As a buyer for cosmetics at Walmart, I’d begun noticing an industry trend, both from our customers’ feedback and focus groups: People care more than ever about the ingredients in the products they’re using. But this was also personal. I’m passionate about using natural ingredients in my home, and I was having trouble finding beauty products that looked good, felt good, and wouldn’t break the bank.

That was last year. Little did I know that a solution was soon to be found.

My team started looking into what it would take to develop naturally-inspired skincare and cosmetics, and that’s when we discovered Hatchbeauty, a company specializing in everything from the development to the marketing of innovative beauty products. They were eager to marry their beauty expertise with our retail expertise to create something truly unique and different – Found, a new line of naturally-inspired beauty products exclusive to Walmart.

Every item within Found highlights a “miracle” ingredient used in ancient beauty rituals. For instance, one of my favorite products, the illuminating drops, uses passionfruit oil to lock in moisture and nourish your skin. We’ve brought these ingredients to life to give customers an alternative featuring natural ingredients that can deliver the same results as traditional, high-end beauty products.

Helping develop Found has been one of the most meaningful achievements in my career, because it has been an intersection where my personal passion and my professional purpose collide. Walmart is committed to selling more products that benefit people and the planet. Found’s 130-product line is never tested on animals, and there’s even a Not Found list featuring what you won’t find in the products, like parabens and phthalates. Every product is 90-99% natural, and the percent of natural ingredients is front and center on every product.

Working with Tracy Holland, founder and CEO, Diana Madrid, COO, and Ben Bennet CCO, was a phenomenal experience, but I was impressed with the engagement from everyone on their team. From the owners to the brand managers to the chemists and product developers, everyone encouraged diversity of thought and inclusion, which made it possible for the customer to be the focus of our development process. I can’t count the number of times we changed direction on formulas, shade range or packaging based on customer feedback. For instance, we received customer feedback that skincare can be a confusing category to shop, so we broke down every item into one of three steps: cleanse, treat and hydrate. Found demystifies the process and helps customers focus on key items to build their regimens.

When I gave my first presentation to our leadership team, I asked them how my makeup looked, and they couldn’t believe everything I was wearing was from our naturally-inspired line. It’s one thing to develop these products – but it’s another thing entirely to actually wear the products and love them! Found has truly been a chance for me to help our customers save money and live better.

You can find Found products at select Walmart locations, Walmart.com and coming soon to Jet.com.

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One Year Ago, We Welcomed Jet … and the Winners are Our Customers

When the Jet.com deal closed one year ago, many people asked, “Why Jet.com?”

At the time, we’d strengthened our e-commerce capabilities and were looking for the right partner to accelerate our efforts. So while it was a logical question to ask, the answer was really quite simple: Jet was the right partner at the right time. Both Walmart and Jet have a deep commitment to serving customers, and saving them money and time. By coming together, we could do all these things, better.

That’s exactly what we’re doing. In August, we partnered with Google for voice shopping. Earlier in the year, we launched Easy Reorder, a feature in our mobile app that helps customers easily access a list of items they purchase most frequently. We also launched free two-day shipping on millions of items – without a membership fee. And we’ve steadily expanded our merchandise assortment. This time last year, we had just reached 15 million items available on Walmart.com and today that number is 67 million items and rising.

We’ve welcomed other innovative online retailers to the Walmart family, including Bonobos, Hayneedle, Modcloth, Moosejaw and Shoes.com. Each of these acquisitions has helped strengthen our expertise in key product categories, provide an expanded assortment and a way to reach new customers. We’re able to provide these new companies the benefit of Walmart’s scale to lower their operating costs, which allows each to invest in the customer experience and grow the business.

We’re also seeing the power of our stores and e-commerce coming together to serve customers. We’re removing friction from our shopping experience – focused on making it fast, easy and fun for customers. Walmart customers now receive a discount for store pickup rather than home delivery, which we can offer by using our vast supply chain and store network to create efficiencies. With stores located within 10 miles of nearly 90 percent of the U.S. population, it’s convenient for many of our customers, and saves them money.

In addition to 1,000 grocery pickup locations in the U.S., we’re testing associate delivery of Walmart.com orders in a few stores. By the end of the year, we’ll have approximately 100 automated pickup towers in stores across the country, where customers can pick up their orders within a matter of minutes. And we’re excited about the growth we’re seeing across our e-commerce portfolio. One important metric, Gross Merchandise Value, grew 69 percent in the first quarter this year, and was just as robust the next quarter at 67 percent. That’s proof customers are responding.

Marc Lore, who founded Jet, and now leads our U.S. e-commerce efforts, has proven to be the digital embodiment of Walmart. He has a fanatical focus on serving customers and creating the next generation of everyday low prices. It’s energizing how he and Greg Foran, CEO of Walmart U.S., and their teams continue to partner closely to delight customers in new ways across our apps, sites and stores.

I’m excited about how far we’ve come together, and even more excited about what’s ahead. Here’s to another great year of finding more ways to save our customers time and money, and delivering an easy and enjoyable shopping experience.

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Business

An Expanded Way to Pay for Online Grocery Pickup

Who doesn’t want to save time? Find an easier way to check things off their to-do lists?

Let’s say there is a solution out there … but it’s available only to some people, not all of them. And it’s dictated by the way you pay. We say: not anymore.

You’ve told us you love Online Grocery Pickup – it’s putting you in charge of your schedule and how you shop. We are so excited that it’s saving you time and money.

We think this is a service that should be available to everyone. That’s why we’re introducing an option that allows customers using EBT benefits to use Online Grocery Pickup and pay when they pick up their groceries.

Right now, we’re offering this expanded way to pay in one store in the Houston area and four more around Boise. And we’ll be bringing it to more and more markets through the holiday season and beyond.

Access and convenience have long been a part of who we are. Our company was founded on the principle of bringing affordable goods to people, and since opening that first Walmart store more than 50 years ago, we’ve been relentless in reimagining the way people shop.

Online grocery pickup service is one of the latest ways we’re doing that, and we’re excited to continually see comments from our customers like these:

Everyone deserves this kind of satisfaction. Convenience shouldn’t be dictated by the way you pay. Your to-do list continues to grow, so ours does too. We’re committed to bringing you options that let you take charge of your time.

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