Consumer View: Wal-mart vs. Target Customers

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To compete with Wal-Mart, Target should focus on locations and price.

Recognizing the differences between big retailers Wal-Mart and Target goes beyond merchandise and sales figures: Who are their customers and why? Thanks to St. Louis-based Maritz Research, there now exist some answers. Utilizing its Maritz Multidimensional Loyalty Model, which helps companies better understand consumer thoughts, feelings, and perceptions of a product or service relationship, the first phase of research surveyed more than 1,200 shoppers online, and a follow-up survey was conducted three months later. While Target customers were researched in depth to better understand their loyalty to the Target brand, for comparative purposes, the study also included shoppers of giants Wal-Mart and Kmart.

Wal-Mart rated higher than Target in overall satisfaction, intent to shop again, and intent to recommend; however, Target got higher marks for attributes such as store organization and cleanliness; product quality, style, and design; customer service; advertising; and registry and gift services. When comparing all three of the big boxes, none of them scored when it came to making stores easy to navigate, making it easy to find items, and having items on shelf and in stock. Target was rated significantly better for both overall store layout and ease of locating items, while Wal-Mart made the grade in keeping items in stock.

The research digs even deeper. Target is stronger than Kmart and Wal-Mart in areas such as ease of parking, having products consumers would decorate their homes with, and checkout speed. But Wal-Mart is stronger than Target and Kmart in dedication to the community, fitting consumers' lifestyles, and ease of return, the survey found. Interestingly, according to the research, higher quality merchandise, more stylish and designer items, as well as a cleaner store would get Target shoppers to drive farther, whereas Wal-Mart shoppers would travel greater distances for lower prices and more merchandise variety. Thus, the survey concluded that Target could increase its share of wallet from its current level by raising customer perceptions of price and availability/convenience of store locations to the levels of Wal-Mart stores. If Target did such, it would increase share of wallet by approximately 3 percent.

Although customer loyalty to Target was relatively high (20 percent, see Outlook box), loyalty to Wal-Mart was at 49 percent. By comparison, high loyalty to Kmart was at 7 percent.

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