@WalmartLabs Crowdsources Walmart’s Product Selection With New “Get On The Shelf” Contest

@WalmartLabs, the digital technology division of the world’s largest retailer, is launching a contest today which uses crowdsourcing techniques to determine which items the company should stock in its stores and on its website. The contest, called Get on the Shelf, will be heavily promoted by all of Walmart’s social media presences, including Facebook, Google+ and, most importantly, Twitter.

The effort is meant to be just a “fun experiment,” but for companies itching to get their products placed on Walmart’s shelves – real or virtual – something like this could be their big break. Previously, getting products into a retail store has been at the sole discretion of the store’s buyer. This contest will eliminate that barrier by giving anyone and everyone a chance to have their products chosen through an online selection process.

For consumers, the idea is to vote on the products you would want to see sold at Walmart via the Get on the Shelf URL, which features videos of the contest applicants’ inventions. Any product in any category currently covered by Walmart is eligible. There’s also, of course, a bunch of fine print. The contest debuted a sneak peak a few weeks ago, and now already has over 60 entries, including a new hot sauce, games, an iPad pillow, pet items and more.

Videos submissions are open until Feb. 22, then the first round of voting will be March 7-April 4. Finalist voting will be April 11-April 24. From the three top contestants, a grand prize winner will be chosen. (The contest is U.S.-only.)

This sort of crowdsourced buying experiment is possible because of @WalmartLabs, which operates something like a startup within the much larger organization that is Walmart. The division is also now home to a number of acquired startups itself, including  KosmixOneRiotGrabble and most recently, Small Society. Over the holidays, @WalmartLabs launched the “Shopycat” Facebook app, one of the first consumer-facing product launches from the group.