“When I started, I had a really simple question, which is, is Walmart beauty oxymoron, can you have Walmart beauty really mean it? The answer is yes,” Balbale said in conversation with WWD senior editor Allison Collins. “In many ways, we are the most accessible retail destination. We have an e-commerce business, maximum reach in stores, and we have an unrivaled grocery business, so our shoppers frequent the stores. Now, there are steps underway to take that pivot from warehouse to destination. ”
The hallmark of Balbale’s tenure was the introduction of smaller indie brands into the brand matrix, represented by the launch of Uoma by Sharon C. – the mass-market sister line of Uoma Beauty, founded by Sharon Chuter. “We know that beauty is very much driven by trendy newness, and a lot of what you’re seeing is to infiltrate that on-trend newness,” he says. “The second thing we realized was that the journey to beauty begins long before anyone enters the retail ecosystem. Half of a customer’s touchpoints in beauty appear on social media long before she even thinks about where to buy.”
Walmart’s one-stop value proposition differentiates itself from specialty retailers and department stores, Balbale said, noting that customers must make purchasing decisions unusually quickly. “[Our shopper] there’s ice cream in her basket, and it’s melting, and one of the things we have to do at Walmart is to make the ride really quick and accessible – not just in terms of price, but also in terms of availability. decision-making and simplicity,” he said.
While Walmart’s e-commerce capabilities are as strong as its brick-and-mortar network, Walmart’s omnichannel approach only became more complicated with its digital transformation last year in the wake of the pandemic.
“Omni[channel] It’s not just about where she deals, says Balbale, and where she gets her products. “I know that about 25% of my online traffic is actually shopping in stores 24 hours later. She is building an online shopping cart to go to a store. We are using our e-commerce ecosystem to facilitate the transaction, but also to facilitate the journey,” he said.
The benefit of Walmart’s reach, however, is that its beauty-loving customers can also shop at different prices. “Walmart serves all Americans, so we have humble customers that mean really focusing on sheer pricing. We also have customers who can afford to buy at a higher price point, so they start buying what they can at Walmart,” Balbale said. The addition of more expensive offerings has worked well in other Walmart categories, he added, including brands like Apple for electronics and Reebok for clothing.
When asked about whether Walmart would pursue partnerships with other specialty retailers to build its reputation in the prestigious beauty space, or whether Ulta Beauty partnered with Target or Sephora’s partnered with Kohls, he says he is very open to this possibility.
“What I’m conscious of is providing brands, whether it’s indie or heritage brands, that are at the forefront of beauty innovation,” continued Balbale. “Beauty customers always want to discover something new. What we can’t be a specialty retailer or department store. So we’re starting to experiment with how to enhance the experience while still doing what we do well. As part of that strategy, we are bringing more freshness to our aisles, from the heritage side as well as the independent side. ”
The game plan for beauties seems to be working. Balbale cited the company’s last earnings call, in which beauty reportedly accounted for 2% of sales, and successfully recruited a young shopper.
“What we’re seeing is it’s resonating and it’s resonating with new customers,” he said. “If I look at the new brands we’re bringing in, 80 percent of those sales are incremental and 40 percent of that 80 percent are new to this category. A lot of new brands are starting to bring customers who never thought of Walmart as a beauty destination, into our aisles.”
Still, there are challenges for smaller brands navigating Walmart’s vast scale, and Balbale has candidly addressed the issues faced by those with fewer resources.
“It’s really hard on many fronts, even new brand founders come and talk to you about the frustration they have with our store operations, the quality of our operations. , the challenge of raising brand awareness fast enough on our platform,” he said, warning that change doesn’t happen overnight. “If we’re going to turn this massive spindle from a warehouse into a destination, we have to do things that start pushing. So I was just excited by what I saw from the numbers. ”
Because of Walmart’s size, alternatives to brand partners used elsewhere in the industry don’t deliver the same results, and coming up with innovative solutions is part of his mandate. . “Given the size that Walmart has and the specific motivations of our customers, they don’t allow the solutions we see elsewhere to just be brought into Walmart,” he said. “We had to create new solutions because of the way customers experience the catalog.”
Balbale also had to reinvent the wheel in the hair care business. The aisles are moving towards integrating hair care services for different textures, as opposed to being segregated by traditional and multicultural services. As reported by WWD, Walmart was one of the retailers that last year announced it was bringing multicultural hair care products out of locked boxes.
“It’s like having a male part and a female part. It is not inclusive and we should go ahead with that kind of standard description,” he said. “What we’ve found is that the hair texture vocabulary is starting to take on a different kind of currency that we can use to explain the variation in the solutions of the products we offer. ”
For more information from WWD.com, see:
https://wwd.com/beauty-industry-news/beauty-features/how-walmarts-musab-balbale-melds-scale-and-innovation-1235005955/ How Walmart Modernizes for New Brands and Consumers – WWD