The American Family Today
Messaging apps like Whatsapp have fundamentally changed how families in my neighborhood interact with each other, and I’m sure we’re not alone. Several times a day I’m greeted with updates from the people I care most about in the world — from a goofy picture of our family dog to a detailed review of my daughter’s audition for her school play or the specifications of my wife’s new running shoes. These in-the-moment interactions help us to stay close, despite being cities or even countries apart. They also help us save time.
I know we’re not alone. Today, American families are busier than ever before and parents are doing whatever it takes to save time, improve the health and well-being of their families and care for their children…and they are increasingly relying on technology to help them.
How do we know? On any given week, more than 140 million US customers pass through Walmart’s doors or shop with us online. With stores and clubs in almost every congressional district, we interact with customers representing all income levels, ages, ethnicities, ideologies and backgrounds. In one year, 83% of all Americans will shop at Walmart at least once. With our scale comes a vast amount of shopping data giving us unique and thoughtful insights on the future state of the American family. At the same time, there is more public information available than ever before that reveals the shifting demands on the family.
As a retailer we’re fascinated with the compromises people make to balance their lives. To look into this a little further, we partnered with Quid — a San Francisco-based artificial intelligence company — to connect Walmart’s customer and survey data with Quid’s approaches to natural language processing. Through Quid’s expertise, we identified trends within publicly available data including news articles, blog posts, social content, investment and patent data and matched it with trends from Walmart data.
The partnership uncovered dozens of insights and trends about how the American family is changing their behavior to meet these new demands. Today we’re sharing five of those insights, and I think they tell a remarkable story.
Too Busy to Get Sick — Parents have little time to get sick. They are researching preventive health care topics online, and looking to buy more over-the-counter medication. They are increasingly using herbal and/or homeopathic remedies such as garlic searching for preventive health benefits. Garlic has been around for centuries, but at Walmart we are seeing sales for garlic bulbs and garlic based herbal remedies like garlic capsules and supplements rise 30% over the past 24 months.
Winning the Family Dinner — Dinner remains a major pillar of family life, but how busy families buy and prepare dinner is changing. We have seen over 100% growth in site to store and pick up today services in the past 12 months. This means customers are ordering online and telling us when it is convenient for them to pick-up everything from a TV to their groceries for the week. And what is filling those grocery sacks? Salad kits and conveniently packaged vegetable mixes have risen by 20% in sales over the past year.
Digital Parenting — Parents are responding to concerns of screen time by purchasing educational toys that keep children learning but focused away from TVs and tablets. Sales of STEM toys at Walmart have increased by 24% in the past 12 months.
Connected Home — In an increasingly connected world, parents place a premium on safety and security not only for their families, but also for their homes. Walmart sales of products such as camera-enabled doorbells and Smart Thermostats have soared by 500% over the past 24 months.
Investing in Nesting — Families are viewing home improvement projects not only as investments, but as a way to save time and make life easier We have seen this trend affect Walmart sales as well. In comparison to last year, Walmart reported an almost 7% increase in sales of home-improvement hardware, everything from hand tools to power tools and bath decor hardware.
Understanding not only the customer of today but the customer of tomorrow is imperative to developing a public policy agenda that meets the needs of American families. I look forward to discussing these findings with many of you in the coming weeks and months.