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Try to summarize the reason for Walmart’s success and the phrase that turns up in business article after business article is the company’s commitment to “everyday low prices.” Instead of running seasonal sales that slash costs, Walmart keeps prices low all year round.
It’s a simple strategy, but one that hides much of the complexity that supports the firm’s growth—and its focus on customer experience.
Walmart isn’t an easy place to work. Store managers have been known to put in 70 hour weeks. Air conditioning in stores drops summer temperatures no lower than 73 degrees Fahrenheit. Executives working at the firm’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, fly coach and share hotel rooms. Their work day is said to start at 6.30am and they have to work half-days on Saturdays. Most famously, the company uses its retail clout to lean hard on suppliers, forcing them to cut prices or raise quality, or find themselves removed from the country’s most important market.
But despite all that penny-pinching, walk into a Walmart store, and you’ll be met by someone who’s only job is to welcome you to the store and show you where to find a trolley. It looks like a waste. The store could operate fine without its greeters. But Walmart uses them not to keep prices low but to improve the customer experience. The company feels that the cost of one extra minimum wage is worth the enhanced sense of experience that that greeting to a shopper creates.
In fact, Walmart goes even further than direct contact between staff and buyers to improve its customer experience. Online, it sees its rival as Amazon and uses a similar strategy to target products at customers who have bought from it in the past. But it has also rolled out a Savings Catcher app that makes bargain hunting even easier for its customers. Instead of requiring that customers bring an advertisement for the same product at a lower price into the store in order to receive a rebate on their purchases, customers can simply scan their receipt. The app searches for lower prices and automatically refunds the difference.
So while Walmart might be known for its low prices, the company still places a strong, if quiet, emphasis on customer experience. And that’s a smart decision because for customers across industries price is only ever one factor in the purchase decision. One survey, for example, found that 67 percent of drivers would pay a higher premium for an insurance company that offered better customer service and higher trustworthiness.
The question then is how that experience is created. For Walmart, it starts with a physical greeting and continues with an out-of-store tool that literally puts money in their customers’ pockets. For other companies it’s formed by every interaction with the business. Every search for information, every delivery of advice, every contact whether it’s in the form of an informational video, a manual or an email newsletter builds that customer experience, creates trust and forms a relationship.
Customer experience doesn’t depend on the price customers see on the shelves or the service they receive from employees. It’s the result of their relationship with the brand. That relationship is built constantly through targeted communication and information that engages. A good content strategy might start with a simple greeting but it builds a vital customer experience.
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