Walmart is once again dipping its toes into the social commerce waters, hosting a shoppable livestream event on Facebook this week with TV personality Rachael Ray to promote the celebrity cook and author’s line of dog food and other products.
Starting at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday (Sept. 29), Ray, her husband, John Cusimano, and their dog, Bella Boo Blue, will discuss the creation of Nutrish, the dog food brand that Ray and Cusimano founded in 2008, as well as Ray’s cookware line. Viewers will also get a sneak peek of Ray’s new cookbook and will have the opportunity to pre-order it ahead of its release next month.
The Facebook Live event, which will also be streamed on Walmart.com, follows a series of livestream shopping events that the retailer held on TikTok starting in late 2020 and continuing into the spring. Those events featured a variety of TikTok creators showcasing different products available from Walmart.
Walmart said that during the first TikTok shopping event, 7,000 more people tuned in than the retailer expected, and its followers on the social media platform grew by 25%.
Walmart Chief Marketing Officer William White told Forbes last year that the company sees social commerce as a way to “shorten the distance from inspiration to purchase.”
“Consumers today are increasingly looking to shop in the moment,” he said. “I think whether it’s their behaviors that are pushing it or the platforms that are pushing it, as a space, we’re moving in that direction. And I think you’re seeing more and more platforms and consumers driving to the space of social commerce.”
Social commerce sales reached nearly $27 billion last year, according to eMarketer, a 39% year-over-year increase. Sales are expected to surpass $36 billion this year and top $79 billion by 2025. Social commerce is projected to make up 4% of U.S. eCommerce sales in 2021.
An Increasing Social Presence
Walmart has been at the forefront of contextual commerce, or integrating shopping experiences into everyday activities and natural environments, which makes the social commerce moves a natural extension of other initiatives. Earlier this month, the retailer partnered with media giant Meredith Corp. to create shoppable ads and recommendations informed by artificial intelligence (AI) for consumers. The collaboration with Meredith will also see the companies create a “shop now” integration with Allrecipes content on TikTok and a voice ordering feature through Google Assistant.
Walmart also has a celebrity-filled video and activity series for both children and adults, with characters from the Netflix series “Hidden World of Waffles + Mochi.” And last month, the retailer partnered with cooking app SideChef to release five shoppable recipes for families.
But social commerce isn’t reserved for only the biggest of brands — in a recent interview with PYMNTS, Amir Kabbara, director of product at Shopify, said that social media “plays an important role in the success of our merchants” and can help to deepen relationships with consumers.
Holly Wade, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business Research Center, also told Karen Webster that small business owners are shifting to social media to help capture consumers they might otherwise been unable to reach. PYMNTS’ most recent Main Street Business Survivor Study found that the average small store now operates three distinct sales channels — a physical storefront, an online store and a social media marketplace.
“It’s becoming increasingly important during the pandemic, with shifting business operations,” Wade said. “Small businesses need social media to make sure they’re competitive with other businesses in the area.”
Battle for the Top
For Walmart, the emphasis on social and contextual commerce comes as it tries to hold onto its title of largest retailer in the U.S. for as long as possible. It is currently in a dead heat with Amazon for the crown, though PYMNTS data projects that the eCommerce giant will overtake the box store heavyweight in the coming months.
Most crucially, Walmart is trying to retain its edge in grocery, which drives 56% of the company’s overall retail sales and is one of the last remaining categories where Walmart is ahead of Amazon. In the second quarter, Walmart had nearly 19% of all food and beverage sales,compared to Amazon’s 2% share, despite its ownership of Whole Foods and eCommerce dominance.