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Wal-Mart Business Strategy and Marketing Mix

Introduction

A successful business organization will always invest heavily in marketing strategy in order to develop a marketing mix that yields the best results as well as making the organization earn a competitive advantage over its competitors. Marketing competition in the current business climate has advanced significantly such that a company that lags behind in terms of satisfying customers or in terms of innovation may find it difficult to survive the storm. Marketing mix has been defined by Kotler and Scheff (1996, p. 42) as “the set of marketing tools that the firm uses to pursue its marketing objectives in the target market”. According to Stone (2001, p. 54), a marketing mix may be explained as a tool that plays the role of balancing the 4Ps of marketing (products, price, place, and promotion) to create a marketing strategy that yields results. In addition, the mix should be flexible/dynamic in order to adapt to the changing market climate and therefore deliver the right product at the right price in the right place and at the right time (Stone, 2001, p. 54).

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Generally, there are four elements in a marketing mix namely place, product, price and promotion, each of which plays a significant role in creating a utility to the customer. Every activity in the organization focuses on satisfying the customer needs and therefore marketing collaborates with other organization’s functions in order to enhance the accessibility of the company’s products, as well as influencing the appeal of the products to the target customers. It is therefore important to have a marketing mix strategy that will address all the pertinent issues dealing with marketing decisions and strategies. Depending on the target market situation, the components of the marketing mix may be altered to fit into the needs and demands of the target market, for example where the target market is affluent and high-income earners, the price may not be a big issue but quality and promotion may play a key role in establishing the product. A well-organized marketing mix will not only satisfy the need of the customers but will also boost the performance of the organization. The focus of this paper is to describe the elements of the marketing mix and how they impact the development of the marketing strategy and tactics of Wal-Mart.

Elements of the marketing mix

Product

Product is the most important of the four elements of the marketing mix because it is what the customers will consume; that is even when the other elements are excellent and the customer is not satisfied with the quality of the product, then the whole marketing strategy will fail. The essence of product strategy is to ensure that the product delivered to the customer is actually what the customer wants, putting into consideration the basic characteristics of quality, product definition, product mix, product lifecycle, and branding and packaging (Peter and Donnelly, 2003, p.88).

Product classification is important as it will enhance in organizing the products depending on the market segmentation. For instance, consumer goods may be classified as a convenience, shopping or specialty goods and therefore, based on the market conditions, the company may organize on which products to deliver to the market efficiently and with ease. In addition, where a company is playing in a competitive market, improvement in terms of quality and branding may play a key role in positioning the products in the market. It is therefore important for the company to invest heavily in product development to ensure that its product is always at par with market needs.

Price

In simple terms, price strategy involves applying the most favorable price that the customers are planning to pay vis a vis the price of other competing products in the market. Pricing strategy may be a tricky affair and should be applied with a lot of consciousness as various factors may affect the performance of the product based on the price. For instance, the least price applied should take care of underlying costs and the profit margin, while a price cap should be applied to avoid adverse effects on sales. For a new product, the price should be low in order to attract customers but the same should be gradually raised as the company gains market share (stone, 2001, p. 61).

However, pricing strategy may be affected by psychological factors of the customers in that what may appear to be a fair price in relation to competing products may not be appealing to the customers as they may relate the price charged to the quality of the product. In most cases, although customers will go for the cheaper products, they at times have the perception that cheap is expensive and that the cheap products are of lower quality than the expensive products. Therefore, in making pricing decisions, market segmentation is always important.

Place

As much as the ability to meet the demand of the customers is important, delivering the products nearer to the customers and at the right time is equally important. An organization’s effectiveness will be measured on how well its logistics are structured in order to create consumer utility. Depending on the type of business, products may be delivered to the market directly or through middlemen. This will also be affected by the durability of the products. For instance, perishable goods need to be distributed with a lot of speed; and market demand should also be assessed first before acquiring such perishable goods to avoid wastage (Stone, 2001, p. 63).

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Promotion

This involves communication to the customers about the availability of the product in the market. Promotion is very vital in the contemporary business environment in that unless the customers know that the product exists, they can never purchase it despite how high quality or well priced it is. Promotion includes communication about the product through advertising, sales promotions, and public relations.

Marketing Mix in Wal-Mart Stores Inc

Wal-mart is a retail store chain dealing with general merchandise, based in the US and with operating units in over 15 countries in the world. It was established in 1962 and has grown over the years to over 8100 retail units around the world (Walmart, 2009).

Wal-mart’s marketing strategy has been influenced greatly by the marketing mix elements. The availability of various retail chains (such as Tesco) offering the same products in the market has offered a lot of competition and Walmart has reacted to this by trying to differentiate its products and improving the quality as well as investing heavily in innovation. The company has made efforts to ensure it stocks the products that reflect the diverse need of the customers. This is emphasized by the comment that “our ‘store of the community concept is helping us…. “Whether it’s locally-grown produce, the hottest seller in electronics or ever-changing seasonal items, we do our best to have the right product in the right place, right when the customers need it” (Wal-Mart, 2009). Moreover, the company has diversified its products as evidenced by the introduction of new products such as a new line of play and learning Pre-School Toys and KISS Korner, as well as revamping its Great Value brand to ensure high-quality products are delivered to the customers. In addition to this, the company has taken steps in repackaging its products. Its Great Value brand was repackaged with a well labeled, easy-to-read, and appetizing food photograph package in order to make it easier for customers to identify.

Walmart has also experienced challenges in the pricing of products especially when other products are offering competitive prices. It is in this view that the company has been always alert to make price decisions that positively add value to its customers. For instance, in October, the company launched $10 toys to its customers for the Halloween holiday which is a competitive price compared with other toys (Walmart, 2009). The company has, also endeavored to increase customer benefits across the globe by among other things lowering prices of its goods and boosting customer traffic regardless of where the storage unit is. Indeed the company’s “goal is to be the low price leader in every community where we operate. “Our customers trust us to have everyday low prices…” (Walmart, 2009).

The place element of the marketing mix has also had an impact on the company necessitating its expansion to various regions around the world. This is influenced by the need of the company to meet the ever-increasing demand for its products. Moreover, the company has reacted to the high demand by setting up a well-structured logistics division with distribution centers both on the land fleet and online distribution network. Indeed, the company claims that logistics is at the heart of its operations and the company uses the latest environmentally sustainable practices in ensuring that the products reach the customers at the right time. The company has also a fleet of trucks for distribution and claims to have the best truck drivers in the country (Walmart, 2009).

The promotion has also featured prominently in the operations of Wal-Mart. Most competing stores are always promoting their products through advertisements and public relations. In this regard, Wal-Mart has always been advertising its products and stores in all media in order to boost its products in the market. Moreover, the company has invested heavily in public relations through press releases; RSS feeds as well as giving back to the community. The evidence of its outreach to the community is through the comments made by some beneficiaries of the company’s activities.

Conclusion

A marketing mix is a powerful tool in marketing a company as can be evidenced by the success of Wal-Mart which is a household name in most global markets. A well-structured marketing mix can not only have a great influence on the performance of the organization but can also ensure the company becomes a market leader by gaining a competitive advantage over its rivals. A successful marketing mix must be dynamic such that it can be changed to suit the demands of the market, and it should also be sound enough to be able to gel with the marketing strategy employed by an organization.

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References

Kotler, P. and Scheff, J. (1996). Standing Room Only. MA, Harvard Business Press.

Peter, J. P. and Donnelly, J. H. (2003). A preface to marketing management. McGraw-Hill Professional.

Stone, P. (2001). Make marketing work for you: boost your profits with proven marketing techniques. Oxford, How To Books Ltd.

Walmart. (2009). Walmart. Web.

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