Monday, October 24

What Walmart Can Learn from Target

This is my second guest blog post as part of #Blogapalooza, allowing graduate marketing students from the University of Kansas to share their voice on our marketing blogs.  My first one was last week when Sean Roarke wrote about male stereotypes in advertising.  Today Ashley Schulte comments on her experiences with two rival retailers, Target and Walmart.  I just love hearing different points of view ... it's what makes the marketing world go round!

What's your experience, Ashley?  Jim.

When I choose between going to Target and Walmart for my shopping needs, it usually comes down to my current location or a known price point difference for certain items. But lately I notice that my Walmart leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. I don’t feel very excited to be in there, and I always (I mean always) have to wait in line on average for five or more minutes. No joke, sometimes ten. But thinking as a marketer, I realize that I genuinely enjoy being in Target versus Walmart due to a stronger brand relationship and incomparable store experience.
But here’s the thing: most Americans will only go to Walmart for the cheap prices. They have remained a colossal success for a reason: its business model is ironclad. The warehouse feel, the infinite inventory, the one-stop shopping keep us coming. But shouldn’t Walmart engage its customers just like everyone else?
While Walmart is known for being BFF’s with Procter & Gamble, Target partners with designers to create its own clothing lines, furniture, d├ęcor, and college dorm necessities. I could spend hours looking at those only-at-Target products…Walmart has some of its own homegrown stuff, but as I said before, it’s simply not the same experience to peruse those aisles.

Meanwhile, Target’s commercials are known as the most cutting-edge, creative advertising in the world. Walmart still prides itself on the “neighborhood” aspect, with its smiley faces, blue aprons, and those friendly greeters at the entrance. Perhaps Target is the upscale version of Walmart with a more limited selection of items, but it seems that Walmart is due for an experiential makeover. After all, Walmart already has such a wide, diverse customer base; I doubt they’ll offend anyone in particular if a few things change.

Walmart doesn’t necessarily need to model itself exactly after Target, but why are there no conversations about changing the store’s look and putting out some new advertising material? Are the same ancient dudes that opened the first store running the marketing too? For instance, if everyone is still going to go there for all of the reasons I previously listed (read: cheap), why can’t the store look change a bit? Just because it’s basically like shopping in a giant warehouse, why does it have to look like a warehouse? It’s just not that pleasant. And when was the last time Walmart put out a commercial that made you think, WOW, Walmart really connected with me as wanting to meet my needs? Are they not an industry leader, don’t they have the money to re-vamp its image? We all like a cheap buy, but I even like to buy Target’s off-brand Up & Up™ brand over Walmart’s Equate™ because the packaging is more appealing. Oh, and by the way, I receive several coupons in the mail for the former to remind me to go to Target and repeat purchase…hmmm…hint, hint, Walmart? You’re losing me there, and this is your own brand!

With the exception of my exchanges with the sweet Walmart greeters, I don’t feel I have any real relationship with the store like I do with Target. The only excitement I feel about going there is spending $3.50 rather than $3.75. So perhaps I propose that Walmart, as an industry leader, could stand to improve its sexy factor (and I bet they have the money to do it!) I’m not asking for the equivalent appeal of an IKEA or Apple store, but if I am one of many Americans who inevitably will end up shopping there for the cheap prices, don’t they want me to want to be in there? Don’t they want to engage customers instead of “expect” our business? Give me something to do while I wait in the never-ending lines, put a little OOMPH in the marketing, re-vamp the stores, and re-invent your self-made wheel! If we need to take baby steps, let’s start with that fluorescent lighting.

Ashley Schulte
I am a Marketing Communications graduate student at the University of Kansas. Through curriculum in branding, experience marketing, and innovation in management, my aim in life is to find ways to improve customer/brand touchpoints and experiences. 

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