Wal-Mart is a multinational retail store, the largest chain store in the United States. It is the leading private employer with diverse employees given that it has spread its wings throughout the world. What started out as a discount store in 1962 is today the leading grocery retail outlet. Control is by the Walton family, explaining the ‘Wal’ in Wal-Mart and they own 48% of the entire stoke in company. This retail giant has over 4000 discount stores in 15 countries. The supermarket giant operates under different brand names in different countries. For instance, in Mexico Wal-Mart operates as Walmex, in the United Kingdom it operates under Asda, and in Japan Wal-Mart runs Seiyu supermarket chains. For Cartwright & Cooper (1993), Wal-Mart believes in consumer satisfaction through affordable pricing. Under this principle, the company has managed to maintain a strong market dominance and customer loyalty since its launch. This paper will analyze the companies marketing strategies in relation to its vision, mission and strategic plan. Essay will focus on the external factors and their influence on the company’s strategies.
Research and Development In Relation To Core Activity
Strategic management has gone a long way in promoting Wal-Mart’s business activities ensuring that it stays ahead of the pack. It is through this that it overcomes all competitor’s natural advantages with the formulation of a strategic plan that aims at getting shoppers to come, having them purchase at a reasonable cost and retaining them. Cooper (1993) states that high performance is achieved through careful planning. This is made easy by the provision of incredibly personalized services. Environmental scanning is used to determine the factors in the organization, both external and internal, which have influence on the direction the business takes. Wal-Mart is at the top of the game, using electronic scanning, where field intelligence is used to predict trends from multiple sources and keeps users informed. This is also made possible by the analysis of the strengths and maximizing on them, weaknesses – down playing them and skillfully using them to their advantage, threats and opportunities, and Wal-Mart always identifies them.
According to Cartwright & Cooper (1993), Wal-Mart was the earliest retail business to use a sophisticated computer system, which enhanced distribution management and helped in the smooth running of many business processes. A highlight of one of the strengths of Wal-Mart lies in its acquisitions and strategic alliances. Changing economic situations in the market have made petite discount stores unwilling to take the risk of committing to long-term investments or even exploring the growth option. Most of them are crippled by serious cash flow problems and have found it necessary to sell out to the more than ready Wal-Mart. This is advantageous in that it leads to increased market share and shareholders’ wealth, improved financial synergy as well as market confidence. Wal-Mart was a pioneer in changing the face in retailing with its introduction of discount selling given customers’ fixation with low prices. They do this profitably by cutting down on the unnecessary selling, general and administrative costs and urging their suppliers to follow suit, resulting to a win-win situation for the suppliers, Wal-Mart as well as consumers.
Marketing strengths and weaknesses
Wal-Mart has artfully targeted emerging consumer groups through effective market segmentation. They are service-oriented and tailor their products to customers’ needs. There has been the coming up of the ‘green market’, which comprises of the health-conscious consumer, and Wal-Mart is a step ahead in ensuring that all purchases are products of ethical production methods with the right nutritional balance. Wal-Mart has perfected the art of scrambled merchandise, where everything is literally kept under one roof. From bread to gasoline, dry cleaning services, car washes, beauty aids, drug stores among others. Many stores have matched the move but given the store sizes, Wal-Mart boasts of the widest coverage area with numerous retail outlets, posing a strong competition threat because they recognize varying regional and local tastes and capture consumer needs. For the human resource, Wal-Mart has excellent store management. Selection, training and evaluation of personnel for promotion, selling and customer service have gone a long way in strengthening the organization. It is on record that in 2009 Wal-Mart rolled out bonuses to its permanent and casual employees worth 933.6 million dollars. This was the biggest bonus share ever advanced to employees in the history of capitalism. The value of a contented workforce cannot be emphasized enough.
Servant leadership as propagated by the founder, Sam Walton, recognizes that employees do not only serve customers but also other employees (Grant, 2010). In management, those in the top cadre are well versed in managing both customers and employees. This is through favorable compensation plans and supplementary benefits like employee discounts, child care and insurance, retirement benefits. Job enrichment is another effective way of managing people to increase satisfaction, motivation and productivity. The downside, however, is that there are endless issues with the labor union, job switching and here, confidentiality is breached in that those who were let in on ‘top secrets’ may commit their loyalty elsewhere and use Wal-Mart’s secrets against them. Critics accuse Wal-Mart of not having an excellent environmental track record. They countered this by reducing on their green house emissions, introducing energy-saving and efficient ways of energy conservation, for instance, solar panels and renewable sources of energy like the wind, in addition to propagating zero waste in all its discount stores.
Management and Human Resource
The dynamism in the nature of the retail business poses a challenge. This is further increased by the role of internet in e-tailing and social marketing. Shopping has gone online and for ‘brick and mortar’ goods like books have threatened bookstores. Here, competition is rife because of other entrants in the market given that online shopping is not a fort for Wal-Mart. E-tailers have better techniques, a unique case being some of them are shifting the purchasing power to customers, allowing them to set their own prices and retailers are left to fight for customers. Ethics in business is a vital factor in that it promotes a respectful and healthy environment. At Wal-Mart, there is an explicit code of ethics, which is a written down policy and an implicit one, which is unwritten but well understood by all employees, and is incorporated into the organizational culture. Here, it is a two way, in buying and selling. Product quality is tested to ensure that what reaches the customer is nothing but the best. Illegal merchandise is shunned in all Wal-Mart branches. Private investigators are hired to check out all vendors and suppliers and processes, for example, the conditions, under which a particular product was produced. What is not a humane process, the product is discarded in favor of a more ‘human’ one. When their employees visit suppliers’ showrooms on fact-finding missions, they are forbidden to accept gifts of any imaginable nature. They sign integrity pledges to ensure they adhere to acceptable professional behavior as the former is considered bribery.
In selling, Wal-Mart does not stock adult-themed sex magazines and other pornographic materials, and this has made it a favorable choice for the family-oriented consumer in that it is seen to respect and uphold family values. It has also made away with commissions in favor of salaries. These commissions compromise on quality in that a person on such offers is insensitive to a customer’s need and, in many cases, conceals certain product facts to a client and in worst cases gives the wrong product to a particular need. Wal-Mart practices category killing, which is stocking a product with varieties to choose from at incredibly low prices that make it impossible for any customer to leave without the said item effectively killing the completion. This strategy is extremely brutal because is ruthlessly diverted from the specialized retailer of the product.
According to Alison & Kretschmer (2007), a lot of capital is required for strategy implementation. This brings to the fore the finance function of Wal-Mart. Making shrewd decisions, regarding capital, engage in investment, ensuring that profits are made and maintained and keeping accurate and up-to-date information, determining the correct mix of equity and debt makes Wal-Mart attain high returns , higher than the competitors and predict with certainty the future capital needs. The management uses this information to determine critical issues like whether to buy or lease assets, the discount percentages so that the company profits and consumers get value for money. Research is a tool Wal-Mart uses to solve anticipated problems and calculate chance and risk, predict and compare decisions and strategies. Research, however, hampers with human impulse judgment, the hunch, which many managers use, and has been proven in most cases reliable. The corporation’s huge financial muscle has worked in its favor in relation to market dominance. The company applies unique marketing strategies that attract customers from the low cadre and, thus, benefiting from the principle of the fortune at the bottom of the pyramid. Wal-Mart’s future looks bright because the marketing strategies suit the current economic uncertainty.
Wal-Mart has an elaborate marketing strategy, which addresses target markets, offering different products, hence, creating consumer loyalty. This is enhanced through its expansion and growth plans. Wal-Mart is literally everywhere and it offers a retail mix, where the P’s of marketing are professionally blended to satisfy the target market. Wal-Mart addresses its major environmental forces: competitor, supplier and consumer behavior, the legal, socio-economic, technological, ethical and legal environments and turns them into opportunities because alternative uses of resources are identified so as to come up with the highest level of performance. Fulmer (2006) reckons that Wal-Mart concentrates on operations management, which is important to maximize the current day-to-day operations and this is the ‘actual guts’ in the retailing trade. Competition evaluation is strength that Wal-Mart has not downplayed by establishing trends that are very difficult to copy in terms of money, the skill required as well as time.