Instead of going to a stuffy middle-aged toy industry analyst to find out what is going to be hot this Christmas, Walmart decided to ask kids. Yep, they gathered 1000 kids under the age of 10 to play with a bunch of toys and decide which ones they liked best. The winners earn a “Chosen by Kids,” designation, which gives them some merchandising cred as well as dedicated shelf space and special recognition on their website.
I like the idea. It reminds me of the Penny Marshall movie Big, where Tom Hanks plays a young boy in a grown man’s body who stumbles into the role of a toy company executive. He doesn’t understand the research or know the trends, but relies simply on how cool the toys are and how much fun it is to play with them.
But there’s something even cooler at foot here. Walmart is essentially putting consumer ratings on the shelf. This has become a must-have for ecommerce retailers and a major benefit for web shoppers. I hardly ever buy anything on the web without reading at least one review, and often many of them. Checking out the number of review stars is standard practice for most web shoppers. Yet other than a few scattered examples, such as the New York Times Bestseller List, or the occasional “Staff Picks,” this practice has rarely come to store shelves.
Yet with the rapid intrusion of digital technology in bricks and mortar retail this is going to be easier to implement. So why not get in front of it? Why not make it easy for consumers? Maybe there was a day when retailers were a bit skittish about offending the manufacturers, but those days should be over. If they can do it on the web, why not in stores?
Why can’t I go to an REI store and see how consumers have rated each tent, just like on the website? Or how they like the new tortilla chips at Target? It does put a lot of pressure on the retailer to buy better. It gives the shopper more and better information and pushes bad products off the shelves. All good for consumers.
It’s a brave new retail world. Merry Christmas!