We just returned from Wal Mart in Jacksonville, Florida - A great, clean, well-run Supercenter. Yet we left empty-handed as the shelves were not stocked with the items we wanted.
There is much ado in the marketing world these days about harvesting demographics. Whether it is through Facebook, or a customer rewards card, or through coupons, or through monitoring our google searches, Marketers want to "get into our head" and figure out what we want and why - and then market to us.
However, much of this data is garbage - it tells the Marketer very little about what the consumer wants. And if you don't stock the shelves with the items the consumer wants, then what is the point?
The two things we were looking for (and drove an hour to find) were the thin pizza crusts that the bakery makes and a saddle-style stool. Neither were in stock.
The Wal-Mart bakery pizza crust is remarkably good - when it is available. It rarely is available. What does that tell a Marketer? Maybe that people like it?
We were hoping to buy this stool, also out of stock at two Wal-Marts, for several MONTHS now. Why bother harvesting demographic data when you aren't stocking the shelves?
The problem with all these computerized systems is that they often give bad data. If you looked at what we BOUGHT that trip, you would not guess that our "pent up demand" was for pizza crust or a bar stool. There is no way to tell, from the cash register receipt, what we wanted, but did not find in stock.
I finally found the Wal Mart Woven Squares crackers - which have a much better taste that those nasty flavored Triscuits. I bought four boxes. Talk about pent-up demand. Since Wal-Mart is so dodgy about stocking things these days, you have to resort to hoarding, I guess.
I'll trade you a box of woven squares crackers for a pizza crust......
Perhaps if the marketing wizards at Wal Mart looked at what was SELLING and what shelves were EMPTY, they might get an idea of what is in demand. Rather than trying to climb into our heads, see what we are actually looking for.
Because no matter what we tweet or put on our facebook wall, chances are, it isn't what we really want.