Walmart is using the pandemic to position itself as a socially-conscious brand
Walmart has been using the pandemic as an opportunity to strengthen its brand’s image as a socially conscious and sustainability-driven enterprise that puts people at the top. This seemingly simple strategy involves numerous decisions but is likely to pay off big in the future.
The retailing giant has taken advantage of its massive infrastructure to incorporate virus-related assistance for its customers. Walmart has also ensured that their staff are properly nurtured and cared for, because by working in the store during the worst of the outbreak they faced a higher risk of becoming ill.
In the following article, Jasdeep Singh, a full-time MBA student at UConn provides a quick look at what Walmart is currently doing and how its stock has performed in response.
A summary of what Walmart is doing
First of all, Walmart is using its extensive network of physical establishments – including huge parking lots – to conduct COVID-19 tests for individuals within the communities they serve.
According to its website, as of July 31, nearly 200,000 people have been tested at a Walmart location. This partnership with the community is likely to leave a strong footprint in the neighborhoods each individual store reaches and allow for Walmart to be perceived as an ally and asset for people.
Secondly, Walmart has added more than 400,000 new associates to its ranks to deal with the increased demand and challenges resulting from stay-at-home orders.
At a time when unemployment rates are at historical levels, Walmart’s decision to provide employment opportunities to such a high number of individuals is helping thousands of households in covering their living expenses, especially in cases where those in charge of the family’s finances have been laid off from their former jobs amid the crisis.
Third, Walmart has continued to make social issues a priority. With ESG sustainability scores now available to the public, and environmental-social awareness investing growing, Walmart has been very public about their efforts to incorporate environmental, social awareness, and governance goals into their plans. Even down to their packaging, Walmart has continued to be a driving force for reducing retail’s impact on the environment and this continued throughout the pandemic as online orders soared.
Finally, Walmart has shown that it understands that showing up for work during a situation such as the one the world is going through right now is life-threatening to some extent and the company has rewarded employees for exposing themselves to such harsh circumstances.
To date, Walmart has reportedly distributed $1.1 billion in special bonuses to its workers, including a $300 bonus for full-time associates and a $150 bonus for part-time associates.
Sure, more money does not reduce the risk of getting ill by showing up for work under these circumstances, but it does communicate the fact that the company acknowledges the complexity of the situation and is willing to compensate workers to the extent of its ability as a for-profit enterprise.
Following Walmart’s lead
Jasdeep Singh, who currently provides his services as a business consultant, emphasizes that Walmart’s strategies should serve as an example for business owners of how to make positive moves for communities and their companies during turbulent, even dangerous, times. It starts by ensuring that health, safety, community, and social impact issues are central to a company’s goals and that these values are provided appropriate resources and monitored over time. The actions should capitalize on, or add to, the core of the business and not draw away necessary resources or infrastructure. However, even start-ups now have a responsibility to be partners for good and customers and potential investors pay attention to what companies do to add value to society.
Looking at how Walmart treats its key partners – communities, employees, and customers – businesses can follow through by developing their own strategies to position themselves as valuable assets of their respective communities.
Some suggestions as to how to achieve this goal include:
Implementing the appropriate safety measures required to protect employees and customers while they visit the business’ premises.
Developing a relationship with key members of the community who advocate for the protection of the most sensitive groups – senior citizens, ill patients, children – to provide them with services that may be of value.
Incorporating social and environmental problem-solving into company goals, brand statements, and marketing decisions.
Contemplate the idea of providing top-performing employees with cash incentives and other forms of compensation that rewards them from doing a good job.
By going above-and-beyond in providing goods and services to the community during a time of social and economic distress, companies can position themselves, regardless of their size, as pinnacles of the community they serve. Such a strategy will result in increased brand awareness beyond possible target markets and a positive perception from potential customers or investors.
Walmart (WMT) shares have gained over 10% during 2020 as the company is favorably positioned to serve customers by using its e-commerce platform and its extensive network of stores. Having been qualified as “essential”, Walmart will be able to remain open even if governments again decide to confine people to their homes to contain the spread of the COVID-19.
However, the true impact on Walmart’s financials will extend beyond the higher revenues it will obtain in these next few quarters. The strategies management has used to position the brand and the company as a partner in helping people and communities will last longer than this temporary windfall.
This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of EconoTimes