How Walmart is experimenting with shoppable content
Find a recipe. Then search on an online grocery platform for each ingredient and add one-by-one to the virtual cart. When that’s done, repeat the process for the ingredients for the next recipe.
Shopping online for groceries can be a tedious process, especially when there’s a long list of ingredients. Shoppable content aims to streamline at-home cooking by providing meal inspiration and making it easier to select and order ingredients with a few taps or clicks.
Walmart, in particular, with its expansive U.S. fleet of more than 4,700 stores, has been spearheading shoppable recipe adoption in the grocery industry.
From recipe site integrations to livestreaming to interactive videos, the retailer’s U.S. division has collaborated with a range of partners over the last five years.
“Broadly, what they're experimenting [with] is making a lot of bets in shoppable content to drive that behavior,” Joel LaFrance, marketing vice president at grocery technology firm Basketful, said about Walmart, which is a partner.
As more grocers in the U.S. explore shoppable content, here’s a look at Walmart’s range of experiments.
Shoppable recipe sites share similar features, such as ingredient lists and “add to cart” buttons, but also have their own unique elements. Whisk, Allrecipes and Tasty let people shop ingredients from Walmart, but have different shoppable recipe button placements and ways of prompting customers to select their desired retailer.
On Whisk, shoppers must first add recipes to their shopping list before they select which retailer they want to buy the items from.
On Allrecipes, people can see which retailers have local offers for specific items and add recipes one at a time to their selected retailer’s carts.
Below the ingredient list and preparation instructions for a recipe, Tasty has a shoppable button prompting customers to buy the ingredients from Walmart.
Shoppable recipes can account for 5% to 8% of online sales for grocers, said Jordan Berke, founder and CEO of Tomorrow Retail Consulting and a former Walmart executive.
His firm’s research has found that while shoppable recipes are a solid enhancement, they aren’t “going to [switch] the user from competitor A to competitor B,” Berke said, noting that recipes can still be a “powerful” customer acquisition tool.
Many of the shoppable integrations across those sites share similar features, like a button that redirects customers to checkout at Walmart, a way to set location, the option to swap recommended products and the ability to change item quantities. Not surprisingly, private brand items frequently appear as suggested ingredients on certain sites.
Some recipe sites have private label products as suggestions for the ingredients.
After clicking or tapping the shoppable recipe buttons, most recipe sites allow people to deselect or swap ingredients, see product prices and change the store location before adding items to their Walmart carts.
The "Add to Cart" button will then redirect shoppers and their ingredient selection to their Walmart carts. Once there, they'll also have another chance to edit product quantities and choose substitutions for any out-of-stocks.
While they all aim to make shopping ingredients for a recipe easier, Walmart’s site integrations are far from cookie cutter.
The collection of Walmart-sponsored shoppable recipes unveiled earlier this year on MSNBC’s Today Show, for example, lets people view suggested ingredients through filters like “minimal waste,” “organic” and “based on lowest cost.”
The Today Show’s shoppable recipe site gives customers different options for what kinds of recommended items from Walmart they want. For example, customers can select to see organic products or ones with the lowest cost or with “minimal waste.”
Today’s recipe site offers multi-recipe shoppable list building.
The list builder prompts shoppers to consider if they already have certain ingredients at home and will note if there are any shared ingredients between multiple recipes.
Shoppable recipes can serve as platforms for retailers to promote their private brands. On Today’s site, suggested products for one of the recipes include skinless chicken breast from Walmart’s Great Value line.
Walmart’s shoppable recipe partnerships illustrate a variety of user experiences with different features aimed at personalization, speedy cart building and cost-saving measures.
Through SideChef, Walmart has ventured into offline shoppable QR codes and smart kitchen applications. At the end of December, LG announced its newest lineup of smart kitchen appliances would let users of its ThinQ app, which is powered by SideChef, select from 10,000 recipes for delivery from Walmart or Amazon Fresh, The Verge reported.
Along with its numerous cooking site integrations, Walmart has played with retailer-branded and co-branded sites featuring shoppable recipes.
Last year, Walmart announced a cross-platform partnership with the Meredith Corporation – now called Dotdash Meredith following its acquisition by Dotdash in later 2021 — featuring several tools such as artificial intelligence-powered meal planning, shoppable recipes, visual search and chatbots. That partnership also resulted in two programs: the co-branded “Make It Easy” site with personalized and shoppable meal planning focused on time, occasion or ingredients and the “Kid Foodology” site with Allrecipes and Parents focused on kid-friendly shoppable recipes, kitchen tips and blogs.
Retailers like Walmart are also beginning to deploy shoppable videos as interactive tools to get shoppers adding products to their digital carts.
But while live commerce like shoppable videos has a powerful presence in Asia, in the U.S. it hasn’t achieved the same level of traction, Berke said, noting Walmart U.S.’s portfolio of content-driven commerce is different from what it’s done in China. For example, in the U.S., Walmart has focused more on relying on using well-known celebrities and influencers in their livestream efforts.
“Oftentimes, those people may not be the best salespeople. They're exciting. They're attractive. They draw traffic but they're not as natural in selling something,” Berke said.
In recent years, Walmart has linked with different firms including Buywith and TalkShopLive on livestreaming and held shoppable livestreaming events on Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube.
In 2018, Walmart started a joint venture with interactive video tech developer Eko content that includes the Walmart-branded Cookshop and Make it with Walmart sites, both of which feature original shoppable and customizable recipe videos. At the time the two companies linked up, Reuters reported that Walmart invested $250 million in the venture as well as in a funding round.
After Walmart “fell in love with the experience” it created with Eko, the retailer worked to expand its work on shoppable interactive recipes, Berke said.
The sites allow users to build-their-own recipes in interactive videos that walk through the preparation process. At the end of each video, people can shop the recipe they created.
Over the years, Walmart and Eko have expanded their work together, including adding shoppable celebrity videos, Kraft Heinz meal prep episodes and a Kraft Heinz-exclusive “Sandwich Shop” to the Cookshop hub.
While Walmart and Eko have explored various avenues of shoppable videos in recent years, the Eko platform is now “in the hands of merchants to decide to use it or not,” Berke said, adding that he expects Eko to become a niche specialty in certain categories that could benefit from interactive video.
Berke, who was optimistic earlier this year about the future of livestreaming commerce in the U.S., has recently changed his tune, noting that Meta and TikTok are pulling away from live e-commerce and that consumers have so far been hesitant to adopt that style of shopping.
“No single retailer is going to have enough livestream content to train their consumer on this very different way of behaving. We were concerned that the whole live stream commerce market may have missed its opportunity in the U.S.,” Berke said.
In late September, Walmart Connect, the retailer’s media arm, announced expanded tie-ups with live commerce platform Firework and TalkShopLive as two of the five partners for its Innovation Partner Program. Those two partnerships will add supplier-funded shoppable livestreams to Walmart.com/live. With Firework, Walmart Connect is also testing mobile-first video experiences and adding short shoppable videos.
Firework co-founder and CEO Vincent Yang said in an interview that Firework can give brands information about users, their location, average viewing times for videos, how many shares a video got and how many people shopped the video, allowing for better measures of engagement than static visuals.
The Innovation Partner Program also includes new advertising opportunities between Walmart Connect with TikTok and Snap — social media platforms with whom the retailer has already started leveraging shoppable capabilities.
In the spring, Walmart debuted a shoppable augmented reality lens Snapchat connected to cooking site Allrecipes that lets users find recipes for ingredients they already have or can order from the retailer, Marketing Dive reported.
The Snapchat lens shortens the customer journey from discovery to purchase, a Walmart spokesperson told Marketing Dive at the time of the announcement. The lens aims to meet shoppers, especially younger ones, in digital spaces where they are already spending time, the spokesperson said.
As social commerce gears up stateside — Walmart recently cited Accenture’s forecasts that social commerce will grow to account for nearly 17% of global e-commerce spend by 2025 — the retailer seems intent on catering to audiences on those types of platforms.
“We believe the future of retail lies in social commerce,” Walmart U.S. Chief Marketing Officer William White wrote in a company blog at the end of 2021.