Customer Disloyalty: Wal-Mart
I believe in order to gain customer loyalty, the consumer’s actual experience has to match, if not exceed, the expectations presented via marketing. A TV ad or online promotion can promise the world of wonder, but if the actual delivery of the product or service is not held to the same standard or expectation of the promises, the customer will be disappointed and skeptical of any return business. And if the disappointment is repeated and subpart quality is proven to be the norm, it will not only turn away customers next time around but keep customers away for life. Such is a case for me with Wal-Mart.
At first glance of its TV commercials, its stores appear clean and uncrowded, its staff friendly and knowledgeable. It has promoted itself as the price leader in the industry and its Black Friday mayhem are widely broadcasted. However, its in-store experience is a different story. From the entrance on, you are met with a sense of overwhelming chaos with long lines protruding outside of the dedicated space of the in-store McDonald’s, malfunctioning shopping carts that cause metal clashing sounds, and disorganized shelves with misplaced products. Even in the area of price leadership, with growing competition from online websites, Wal-Mart is not always the best value in town.
Although it provides the convenience as a one-stop-shop for weekend errand runs, the customer experience is far below its competitors, such as Target. Both Wal-Mart and Target operate under similar business models and offer similar products. However, Target’s shopping experience is superior to that of Wal-Mart in aspects of clutter, equipment functionality, and overall presentation of its stores. Despite its higher price point compared to that of Wal-Mart, the value added by these factors, to me, are worth the extra cost. The unpleasant experience of Wal-Mart stores not only affects its own business profitability but also those of its vendors. If a company signs an exclusive deal with Wal-Mart, it can be negatively impacted by the customer perception that is projected by Wal-Mart.
A big part of the shopping decision consists of the actual experience that cannot be compensated by the glitz and glamour of a marketing campaign. My personal perception of Wal-Mart demonstrates that although a company’s marketing strategy plays a significant role in its successful operations and longevity, the products and services it offers is a core competency that is at the heart of its customer retention and loyalty.