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Walmart’s Retail Link Supply Chain Essay

1. Where does Walmart’s supply chain start? What triggers Walmart’s Retail Link system to ship goods to local Walmart Stores?

Walmart’s Retail Link is triggered by consumer purchases in local stores by point-of-purchase cash register data. This is in contrast to more traditional supply chains which often start with a manufacturer or distributor shipping goods to local stores based on forecast sales or the hope of making more sales by flooding isles with products (“push” driven supply chains). In the case of Walmart, the supply chain is driven by consumer behavior which “pulls” replacement stock from inventory.

2. Why is a detailed knowledge of consumer purchases at each store important to Walmart’s success?

There are regional and local differences among all of Walmart’s stores in the United States. These differences may involve weather patterns, ethnic composition of customers, local economic conditions, and regional cultures as well. Therefore, each store is in reality a unique entity with its own patterns of consumption. By adjusting inventory to each store, Walmart is able to meet different customer needs, and optimize sales revenue.

3. Why can’t other large retailers easily duplicate Walmart’s Retail Link?

Retail Link has been built over several decades, and the experience and knowledge that Walmart has developed cannot be easily transferred to other firms. Moreover, the financial investment is substantial. Nevertheless, other large retailers like Target and Costco have developed powerful and competitive systems to compete with Walmart. Because the technology has fallen in cost over the last decades, new comers have an advantage over legacy systems like Retail Link.

4. Why does Walmart encourage its vendors to learn how to use Retail Link?

Walmart is able to offload some of the cost of keeping its shelves full to vendors. Vendors monitor the stock of their goods in all Walmart stores and are incentivized to keep goods in stock (avoid stock-outs). Is there a danger of vendors overstocking Walmart shelves? Probably. But Walmart’s own managers oversee the inventory system and can quickly spot those vendors who would take advantage of their access to Retail Link.

Case 2: Salesforce.com: The Emerging Social Enterprise

1. Why did Comcast join public social networks? What difference did it make for Comcast’s business? What might be the benefits for a consumer?

Because so many of its customers use public social networks and engagement in conversations about the firm, Comcast believed it needed to join these social networks to address problems and identify supporters and positive comments as well. 2. What issues and challenges is the use of social network monitoring supposed to solve or address at Salesforce.com?

The key statement is that “the conversations about your firm beyond your Web site are just as, or more, important than what’s happening on your Web site.” In other words, because so many of its customers use social networks and spend time on social networks, it is important for Salesforce to be there also and to engage their customers. It’s a questions of listening and engaging with customers. How else could this be done in a social network world?

3. Radian 6 (now owned by Salesforce) is described as a “listening and engagement platform.” What does this mean and how does it differ from traditional marketing techniques for communicating with the customer?

Radian started out as a firm that monitored how brands were being discussed on social networks. And then helping its clients address the issues, problems, and critical comments  authored by customers. It’s a much more “listening” approach than email, print advertising, display online advertising, and so forth, which all oriented to broadcasting messages from the firm to customers.

4. What are some of the measures you can use to measure the success of a social business approach? Name at least four measures of social business impact.

What does it mean to measure the success of a company in terms of its “share of conversation”?

Some of the measures mentioned or illustrated are: the number of online subscribers to Web and Facebook pages; Twitter followers; online posts and comments all channels; video views; engagement coverage (breadth of customer participation across products); quality of engagement; sentiment of online comments (positive or negative); # of MVPs (most valuable persons are influential supporters); posts and comments; downloads; Facebook engagement score

“Share of conversation” really refers to overall brand identification by consumers, or, “the degree to which a brand is associated with the problem it set out to help with.” Think Google for search; Xerox for copying; YouTube for online video, and so forth. 5. How did Salesforce organize its social business initiative? Why was it important to make social enterprise a full time job?

It established full time community managers working in a Social Media Command Center. Salesforce managers felt that only by setting up a formal group to advocate for social media could the firm transform itself to become a social enterprise.


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