Walmart is the largest retail store in the US. It has over 3, 700 stores countrywide and many others internationally. Despite these positive results, there is a need for injection of new ideas in order to ensure that the retail giant sustains its position as a market leader. The essay seeks to examine its marketing strategies in the present and possible strategies to ensure future growth. (MSNBC, 2007b)
Walmart Strategic business goals and objectives
Walmart has always aimed at increasing sales through its friendly prices. This image has stuck with the company for a very long time. Not only is the company associated with low prices, but it has a variety of items under one roof. These qualities favor the rural clientele. The company is driven by a commitment to business excellence. This is seen by the quality of care accorded to customers once they report to their retail stores. This is ensured by the participation of employees in this business goal. The company has cultivated a culture of perfection in that they always want to be on top. The Walmart marketing manager has said that Walmart’s major business objective is to ensure that their sales are always increasing. It is one thing to get to the top but remaining there is different. The company ensures their growth rate does not stagnate. Other companies usually work on increasing their performance and once they have reached those targets, they choose to relax. However, this does not apply to Walmart; the company ensures that they always look for ways of sustaining their competitive advantage.
The Company is driven by the pursuance of technological improvements. This is achieved through the use of new technologies in service delivery. Creativity and innovation is another business objective for the company. Through the efforts of their employees, the company aims at maintaining their market positions by brainstorming and looking for new ways of attracting potential clients. (MSNBC, 2007b) The Company also values being considered as a strategic community partner. The company’s mission is ‘saving money to live better’. This is an image that the company has worked on very well. Many people consider Walmart as a consumer friendly retailer. The company has cultivating this image through a number of ways.
First of all, through their consumer friendly prices, through their satisfactory customer service, and also through their convenience as a one stop shopping centre. Walmart uses the aspect of availability as another business objective. The Company has opened up a series of locations in different parts of the country. This means that customers are not inconvenienced when trying to locate them. Additionally, it becomes very difficult to ignore the store when one can see it in virtually all parts of the country. This aspect of availability is one of the reasons why the company has done very well in the past. (MSNBC, 2007b)
Analyzing Walmart’s situation
Walmart is dealing with attacks from a range of stakeholders in the retail industry. For instance Trade unions, human rights organizations and former employees. these groups have all accused the retailer of abusing its employee’s rights. They assert that Walmart discourages its employees from participating in trade unions. Employee rights groups argue that the company’s enumeration package does not reflect the rich profit margins that the company enjoys currently. In the year 2006, Maryland legislature passed a law that would force Walmart to spend a specified amount on health insurance. However, this law was reversed by a federal court. Additionally, some groups have been formed to specifically give anti-Walmart remarks. For instance WakeupWalmart protesters assert that Walmart’s advertisements on their corporate responsibility efforts indicate that Walmart wants to fool the eyes of the American public. Such an image could damage the company’s public relations and this could drive away certain precious clients. The company has expanded rapidly over the past years. With its three thousand seven thousand retail chains located in the US, the retailer has saturated the market. It is difficult to get to a certain town without locating a Walmart store.
This means that the company might face severe obstacles in its expansion procedures. It would therefore be wise for the country to consider other parts of the world such as China and India. However, efforts to replicate this success in other countries have not bore fruit as the country has not done very well in South Korea after recording low profits for a while, the company was forced to close its subsidiary in Germany. The company had to sell this subsidiary at a throw away price in order to stay ahead. Therefore, expansion strategies need to be done systematically (MSNBC, 2006) The corporation is also faced with the challenge of continuously attracting clients into its stores. Clients have already decided on what they want to buy in Walmart and it is difficult to convince others to join in. This is the reason why the company’s client traffic has been reducing in 2007.
The company has reached saturated levels in the US market and it is difficult to convince other individuals to continue with the company. (MSNBC, 2006) Walmart is faced with the challenge of making its stores more convenient. The company’s representatives asserted that they may consider reducing the sizes of their stores in the future because it is difficult to navigate the stores for just one particular item. There is a need for the company to change its image from its large rural base into smaller, urban and more convenient stores. The company’s major competitors have already embraced this concept as Tesco of the UK has small stores specializing in specific products. (MSNBC, 2006)
Strategic goals for Walmart’s future growth
Walmart needs to target external markets. However, the company should change its market entry techniques. It should focus on customizing its business objectives within each country. The retail giant needs to make product quality as part its major business strategy. Quality in this regard refers to both the customer service and the nature of the products in its stores. The company needs to reinforce an image of a community based organization. This means that its employee practices should be enhanced and it should also maintain its low price offering. (MSNBC, 2007a) Strategic marketing program marketing objectives, targeting and positioning The Company needs to change its marketing objectives in such a way that they can attract a different market segment. In the past, the company has been associated with the middle class or low-income earners. Affluent clients tend to shy away from the retail giant due to the misconception that Walmart’s products are of lower quality.
Most of them use the store for pharmaceutical and grocery shopping and pay no attention to the stores when it comes to other options. The Company has tried to establish this concept in the past. In the year 2006, the company opened up stores with this objective in mind. They stocked a wide range of sophisticated products such as jewelry, electronics, a sushi bar and a variety of electronics. The affluent market is crucial in the company’s efforts to secure new markets because they have saturated current ones. Almost all middle class shoppers prefer Walmart. Therefore, in order to sustain its position, the company needs to assess what competitors are doing to boost sales. Target – Walmart’s rival – has managed to attract affluent consumers. Consequently, Walmart must try and give these shoppers a reason for shopping at the company. Affluent shoppers appreciate quality and need to be assured that they can find it at Walmart. The reason why the company failed in its 2006 efforts to target these clients is because it went about implementing this goal in the wrong way. First of all, the company needs to improve the appearance of their stores through creative store displays. This is particularly important for stores allocated in affluent neighborhoods.
Walmart needs to work on the quality of its items. Some of the affluent consumers believe that Walmart has failed in this regard. In instances where the perceptions about the company are totally wrong, then the company can improve this image by marketing its products in a different way. They could talk about the quality of their items with particular emphasis on merchandise that affluent workers prefer. However, the company should be very careful about the type of products they choose to sell. In the year 2006, the company wanted to follow their rival- Target’s product portfolio. However, this did not work very well because they tried including designer labels in their apparel section. This is a very tricky item to sell and may not necessarily give positive responses. Designer items fluctuate from season to season and it may be difficult for the company to keep up with the trends. It would have been wiser if the company stuck with electronic items as these are less susceptible to change. Additionally, the company needs to make this transition slowly. All successful entrepreneurs agree that there is no need to change a winning team. Therefore, even if Walmart plans on targeting those affluent consumers.
They must ensure that these changes do not scare away current clients. Walmart should do a thorough market analysis to find out the most appropriate manner of attracting these clients. Other retail stores that have made a name for themselves among these affluent shoppers have been working on this image for centuries. Consequently, Walmart should not imagine that they could do this overnight. (MSNBC, 2007b) Additionally, the company should venture into other countries. Despite the fact that the company has done very poorly internationally: it closes one in every three stores overseas, there is need to expand operations. Since the company has reached saturated levels locally, then there is a need to tap some of the internationally resources. First of all, the company should exercise a lot of selectivity before choosing a particular country. Part of the reason why the South Korean outlet had to be closed was that the company still used the same marketing strategies applicable in the US.
Different countries have different preferences, the company’s strategy of saving money to live better may not be feasible everywhere. The company should not enter international markets directly. It could collaborate with local leaders in those respective countries in order to work with a winning formula. Alternatively, the company should test an international market by beginning with fewer and smaller stores. If the response is good then it could proceed to expand. Countries chosen for expansion should be economically secure. Therefore, increasing the number of stores in China and India is probably a good idea. However, this should be done slowly and after thorough research. (Pallavi, 2007)
The company should not abandon its idea of attracting the affluent client. However, this should be done sequentially; the Company had introduced Metro 7 stalls in 1,500 stores. These stores offered jewelry, expensive wine and other expensive commodities. The reason why this did not work very well was that the change was introduced rather drastically. The company should introduce expensive products only in stores located in affluent neighborhoods. (Pallavi, 2007) Additionally, the company needs to exercise selectivity in the types of products chosen. The company should stay away from designer clothes or organic foods because these did not yield good results in the past. The focus should be on electronics.
The company needs to inject more creativity in its product offerings. It indicated this through its partnership agreement with Canopy furnishings. During the month of March this year, the company introduced a range of furniture items from Canopy and it is very optimistic that this would do well. The company should follow such an approach. For instance, the company should partner with other brands for household items and electronic companies. By securing well-known suppliers, the corporation can offer better quality products thus attracting the eye of the affluent clients who are particularly interested in these items.
Since the Company has already saturated the local market, then the focus should be on international markets. However, entry into those international markets should be done tactfully. Walmart should choose economically secure countries. The stores found in these areas need to be located strategically. (Pallavi, 2007)
The pricing aspect of Walmart’s marketing mix is part of the reason why the company has done so well so far; this is its winning formula. The company should maintain their low pricing strategies but they should merge this with product choices. They need to improve on the quality of service and their items in order to make themselves more appropriate in this scenario.
One of the most notable promotional strategies in Walmart is the use of public relations. The company takes part in charitable events and has marketed itself as a community based institution. However, there have been a number of accusations in the media that Walmart exploits its employees. The company has had to grapple with lawsuits centering on this poor image. The company has already embarked on this program by marketing the company as a fair employer; it provides its employees with a good health insurance plan. The following issues have been highlighted in an advertisement posted in support of Walmart’s corporate responsibility
* The retailer is the nation’s largest employer
* Its offers affordable health plans starting from $ 23
* The company contributes close to 245 million dollars in charitable events annually(MSNBC, 2007a)
Instead of using advertisements such as the one shown above, Walmart should place more effort in improving their staff management policies. The problem with such advertisements is that they take so long to change consumer opinion. As a matter of fact, they may engrain negative perceptions because clients will see that the company wants to improve a tarnished image. Instead of spending millions on such advertisements, the company could direct those funds to improve their reward systems. A good employer does not need to advertise their employment practices as they will speak for themselves. The company should boost its health insurance plans because other companies offer better health programs yet they earn less than Walmart. This will go a long way in improving company image. (MSNBC, 2007a) In line with this argument, the Company need not convince the public that its employees are actually happy to work for the company.
These employee opinions should not be communicated to the public. Walmart asserted that, it has been found that a whooping eighty one percent of the company’s staff would recommend one of their friends to become Walmart employees. This kind of approach will not work for the company because the company is adopting a defensive strategy. The accusations made against the company could be embraced and turned against the counter accusers by improving organizational policies. Lastly, the company should embrace the idea of hospital partnerships for its retail clinics. The company already announced that it plans on expanding the number of in-store clinics from fifty five to a whooping four hundred by the year 2010.
While it may be a good idea in itself (given the fact that Walmart will be enhancing its corporate image as a company that cares for the community), there is still room for improvement. Walmart has been in the news for a number of wrong reasons. One of the accusations labeled against the retail giant is the fact that their employee health insurance plans do not fit their status as market leaders. Consequently, the company needs to look for ways of improving this image through a number of avenues. First of all, they could offer their employees access to the in-house clinics. This will go long way in enhancing their employment practices. (Pamela Lewis Dolan, 2008)
Walmart has done a lot in the past in order to secure its position as a retail market leader. These include offering low prices, offering good customer service and constant innovation. However, lately the company has grappled with low customer traffic. Market saturation in the middle income market segment, poor international performance and bad public relations as a result of their employee practices. The company should adopt the following strategies in order to ensure future growth; adopt penetrative strategies international markets, introduce good product packages for products favored by affluent clients and improve health insurance plans within the company. These will go a long way in sustaining the company’s positions as the US’s retail leader. (Pallavi, 2007)
Target market segmentation
For over 40 years, Wal-Mart customers have been classified as “value-price shoppers.” But after concluding a year’s worth of marketing research, According to recent studies and research, Wal-Mart has concluded that its 200 million customers actually belong in three different groups. First, there are “brand aspirationals” — low-income shoppers who are obsessed with names like KitchenAid. Second, there are the “price-sensitive affluents,” wealthier shoppers who love deals. Third, Wal-Mart maintains its traditional “value-price shoppers,” folks who like low prices and cannot afford much more.
In recent interviews, Wal-Mart officers John Fleming and Stephen Quinn have spelled out details about the new categories. First, there are “brand aspirationals” — low-income shoppers who are obsessed with names like KitchenAid. Second, there are the “price-sensitive affluents,” wealthier shoppers who love deals. Third, Wal-Mart maintains its traditional “value-price shoppers,” folks who like low prices and cannot afford much more.
The new categorization is significant because it enables the retail giant’s marketers to better understand why their customers shop the way they do. As a result of this study, marketers at the $345 billion retailer will begin organizing all product decisions around each of the three groups.
Many changes are already underway. Under Mr. Fleming’s direction as chief marketing officer, Wal-Mart has abandoned its single-minded focus on price and made bold moves in new directions, including opening a design office in Manhattan, staging fashion shows, buying ads in stylish magazines like Vogue, and launching into the organics food market.