January 30, 2023

Walmart

So yeah, Walmart is printing high margin money by asking "brands" to hawk Walmart customers through Walmart stores or all across the internet. It's a modern twist on the old-school catalog method of generating list revenue in the 80s and 90s by renting the twelve-month buyer file to competitors or frienemies.

Walmart's advertising solutions page is a marketing word salad designed to inspire middle managers to embrace the customer journey, paying $$$ in the process to get the customer to "BUY SUPPLEMENTS" (click here).

Can I tell you a story?

I was at Walmart tonight, picking up prescriptions. As I sat on an unsteady plastic chair awaiting my fate, a gentleman somewhere around 70 years old waltzes over to me, smiling.


CUSTOMER:  Have you ever bought milk here?

KEVIN: No.

CUSTOMER:  Do you want to know a secret?

KEVIN: Ok.

CUSTOMER: This store sells milk for $1.48 a gallon. I've shopped other Walmart stores in the West Valley. Milk is anywhere between $3.48 and $3.98 a gallon elsewhere. But here it is $1.48. Why do you think that is? It's always the case. It cannot be a mistake. Somebody somewhere thinks this is the right thing to do.

KEVIN: Wow.

CUSTOMER: I drive fifteen miles just to come to this store to buy milk.

KEVIN: You what?

CUSTOMER: Yeah, fifteen miles. I have to. It's $1.48 a gallon.

........... twelve minutes later, I'm still sitting on a wobbly plastic chair, and the customer walks up with one (1) gallon of milk:

CUSTOMER: What did I tell you?

KEVIN: It's $1.48?

CUSTOMER: Exactly! And I don't get it.

........... five minutes later, I'm standing in line to buy my prescriptions ... here comes the milk man.

CUSTOMER (twirling the lone gallon of milk in his hand via the handle): A buck-forty-eight.

KEVIN (offers customer a thumbs-up).


Do you understand the moral of the story?

This guy, call him "milk man", drives 30 miles round trip to purchase one (1) gallon of milk. He spends $4 in gas to save $2.50 on milk. And he's happy about it.

Meanwhile, some marketing professional misinterprets this behavior as a sign of a seamless, frictionless omnichannel experience and sells the behavior to a middle manager who then targets string cheese to the customer. The customer gets meaningless ads, the middle manager feels strategic, and Walmart counts money.

So much of this omnichannel nonsense is actually price-fueled merchandise experiences. The behavior has nothing to do with channels, and has very little to do with marketing (unless you view pricing strategy as part of marketing ... or in this case, maybe a computer mistake).

But by using a language that marketers understand, Walmart aligns these "experiences" with the desires of a marketer desperate to sell string cheese "at scale", and prints money in the process.

The "milk man" doesn't care. He found milk fifteen miles from his home Walmart for just $1.48 a gallon.

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