business news in context, analysis with attitude

Got the following email in response to a "Worth Reading" piece we ran yesterday about a Harman Group white paper:

The Hartman report is a reminder from my college “101” marketing course… “It’s all about consumers’… In today’s world of digital and e-commerce, we need constant reminders so we don’t lose sight that effective campaigns are what matter.  I always believe business is about solving a problem and executing better than anyone else.   Always follow the consumer; how you follow thru the “buy vs. build” decision depends on how well the solution fits the problem.

With regards to Tesco F&E, they did pay attention to the shoppers but chose not to listen to their vendors in their formation days, which I would have argued might have improved their look-n-feel when consumers first went into their stores and voted not to return.  No need beating a dead horse that’s already at the glue factory.

There are, however, exceptions of “brawn” companies doing well.  Best example I can think of is Samsung.  All over the world, they throw advertising monies at consumers, the core message of which is thin and I would argue mostly meaningless.  But, their product sells because they make exception, functionally-driven products. Their advertising therefore, serves as reminders; keeps their products top-of-mind. We’re now starting to see Windows do the Apple comparative ads they frankly should have done long, long ago.  So, the glue buyers will have to go elsewhere, for now….

Samsung’s weakness – and it’s a big one – is that they have not owned being iconic in consumer’s minds, uniquely, in any way other than (copyable) function.  They are overtaking Apple because functionally, they now have a better (technological) product at a better value, it could be argued. I believe not focusing on iconic ads plays to Samsung’s advantage who really don’t care what others think of the smartphone we’re using.  I’m very happy to enjoy a better value and let the youngsters (over)pay the other guys.  Hopefully, that makes Samsung work even harder.
I realize some patent lawyers might offer another POV, but I like what Samsung does as a “brawn” marketer.  Thanks again, Kevin for sharing the story / link.

My pleasure. And for those who may have missed it yesterday, you can check out the entire white paper - available for free - here.

I love it when I get emails like this one, that reflect on the consumer experience:

In the last year, I have become fond of and proficient in utilizing Amazon more often than brick and mortar stores for a lot of purchases.  This week is a birthday in my family and I wanted to get an economical tablet as a gift.  Out of the blue I got an emailed “ad” from Walmart touting a great price on a tablet that would suffice for my gift needs.  I went to a local store yesterday morning to purchase said item and could not locate it anywhere, nor could I find someone to assist me - seems they were having a Team meeting at 7:45 a.m. on a Tuesday.  Nonetheless, I left disappointed, but after arriving at work, I reviewed the ad again only to notice a “buy it and ship free” option.  I went through the process and ordered the item only to be informed it would be available for store pickup at the exact same Walmart store within 4 hours, which was puzzling as I could not locate the item at all when walking the store.

After receiving the confirmation and instructions, I printed the needed documents and went back to the exact same Walmart store after work, as the paperwork said “Go to your store’s Services/Site to Store desk during pickup hours, 10am-10pm daily.  If there are no Walmart associates in the pickup area, use the touch screen located near the register to call for assistance”.   Upon entering the store, I could not locate any signage or directions, so I went to the front/customer service desk where I patiently waited in line for a few minutes.  When my turn for assistance came and I presented my paperwork, I was told I had to go to the back of the store near the bicycles.

I did locate the Services/Site to Store desk (one sign hanging from the ceiling near the bicycles), which also serves as the Walmart Layaway counter.  Once in line, patiently waiting as customers placed items on layaway, I noticed two signs referencing to “touch the screen” to pick up items, which was funny because there was no screen in sight, only the one register that occupied both individuals working the counter.  During a lull in the process, one of the associates asked me what I needed, and when I explained, he said I would have to wait for the other associate as he had only been working back there two weeks and didn’t know how to complete my transaction, which was already paid for I might add.  Eventually, I did make it to the front of the layaway line and received my item, which was priced great, but I would rate the overall experience as one I would not, as a shopper, choose to have again.  I would rather stick with Amazon, which in this case, did not have the price/features I wanted, but would have saved me frustration, time and gasoline.
Thinking out loud, I wonder how many secret shoppers, or Walmart personnel, have actually tried their own service and how they would rate its performance.  I doubt it has this many flaws in Bentonville, but my retail experience reminds me that the further away from the Corporate Office, the worse the execution.  While it might be great on paper, the execution was horrendous, and provides me with another example of how traditional retailers fail by not meeting consumer’s expectations.

Points taken.

I hope that my Walmart readers are paying attention, because this is the kind of stuff that sinks even the best strategy.
KC's View: