In our daily business selling printer ink on the internet, we are told by the marketing experts that you absolutely must test any changes you make to your store and that you absolutely must gather customer feedback and implement whatever trends you see emerging. So we slavishly adhere to these principles.
This is my point in this blog; you need to understand what the results of testing or customer feedback are actually showing you before you go all out and implement changes. In the case of Optimiser we now know that subtle changes are too small to be recorded accurately; you need to be testing big changes. Also you can’t take the first few days’ results as Gospel, you have to give it a month or more before drawing any conclusions.
Likewise with customer feedback. We have always had some means of garnering customers’ views on the website, and my philosophy has been to use the positive comments to develop and push our unique selling points (USPs), and to use any negativity to address problem areas as a matter of urgency. However, when Walmart got itself into a customer-driven change mentality it cost them an alleged $1.85 billion - not an insignificant amount I’m sure you will agree.
According to a story on Daily Artifacts, back in 2008 Walmart conducted a customer survey which found that the majority of customers wanted a “less cluttered” store, so it rolled out a strategy which revised its decades-old strategy of low price and wide selection.
- 15% of the inventory removed from the stores. Some suppliers reported losing 30% of their stock in Walmart stores due to the revamp
- Pallets of items like juice boxes or sweatshirts stacked in the centres of aisles were removed
- Merchandise on “end caps” displays at the ends of aisles was slimmed down
- Shelves were shortened as well
In hindsight Walmart relied on what customers said in a survey, rather than what it already knew from customer behaviour in store. It took this research as the truth and rolled out a huge programme of change that affected the value of the store group to the tune of an estimated 1.85 billion dollars. Some argue that this happened at the same time as the global recession was hitting people’s spending power, however Walmart with its low prices and value model, should have been in a prime position to benefit when budgets get tight.
- Test, but allow time for statistically significant differences to be apparent
- Gather customer feedback, but test changes before rolling them out store-wide