Woolworths’ in Australia

Customers are the key to any business in general. But for a retail store, facilitating the customers becomes of prime importance, because their buying behaviour is influenced by the manner in which consumers are treated at the store. Consumer market is the market where goods or services are sought by individuals for their own or family use. Retail marketing serves this particular market. ‘Woolworth’ is a major superstore chain having branches in many countries and offering range of products from consumer durables, electronic items, toys, sports and leisure items to fresh food. Stem and El-Ansary (1992) contended that most influential members of marketing channels for FMCGs are the retail supermarkets. The concept is well respected as we move ahead in a competitive environment. With forecast of more than 25 percent growth in the retail industry (Datamonitor, 2009), and over 20 percent growth in global multiline retail industry by the year 2013, it becomes very important for the reputed retail stores to widen their span by offering value for their customers (Datamonitor, 2009a).2.1. Positives of Customer ExperienceThe positive aspects of adding value to the shopping experience of customers at retail store include;i.                    Value addition to the customers’ experience resulting in satisfaction to the customerii.                  Occasional customers can be converted to loyal customers for the storeiii.                Satisfied customers become brand ambassadors for the retail store, whenever they talk about their positive experience at the storeiv.                Retail store gets an advantage in taking on the competitorsv.                  Retail store can conserve more time and resources for expansion in other marketsvi.                The retail store is able to establish its brand equity which helps in consolidating its market sharevii.              Company can command better price for the product or serviceviii.            The retail store can enter into strategic tie-ups with some other reputed brands and thus leverage the brand equity to the advantage of its customers, which in turn would add value to customer experience2.2. Negative of Customer ExperienceIf somehow the customer is not able to find the kind of experience he/she is looking at the store, then it might result in negative consequences like;i.                    Decreasing numbers of loyal customers as customer will not find value for moneyii.                  Retail store would have to spend more resources towards marketing communication strategiesiii.                The store will have to contend with aggressive marketing strategies of competitors.iv.                Fluctuating market share of the companyv.                  Adverse impact on the profitability and economies of scalevi.                The store will have to confront demanding suppliers, as they’d want to have their association with a better brandvii.              Retail store will find it difficult to chalk out its expansion plans3.0 Evaluation of Positive AspectsFor a retail business the top priority is of course to remain in the good books of the customer. But there are a range of priorities for the superstore, which are required to be arranged according to the business philosophy of the company. Market segmentation and opportunity prioritisation go hand in hand. Positive aspects can be evaluated by taking a look at the span of customer base and how the company has been able to strengthen its relationship with its customers. Relationship management is stated to be a dynamic process, the objective of which is to create a ‘relationship climate’ which ‘sets the stage’ for the nurturing of individual relations (Saren and Tzokas, 1997). Brand equity is considered to be an important intangible asset which helps in establishing a lasting relationship with the customers. Therefore positive aspects can be evaluated by having a look at the established identity of the company/ services the uniqueness associated with the brand4. 0 Areas for Potential Improvement using Web-TechnologiesThese days the virtual world has become a new turf for widening the reach of any brand or company. Generally each company tries to explore all channels available for offering the products and services. Internet, having a transcontinental presence, has become a powerful medium for reaching out to customers spread around the world. With the help of web-technologies now it has become easy to discover, access and use remote applications and data in ways that overcome some important costs and limitations usually associated with interoperable services (Cordeiro and Carvalho, 2002). But it is equally true that, while on the one hand e-commerce and m-commerce have become catch phrases, the hackers, crackers and instances of phishing have raised question marks on the efficacy of web-services. Some of the areas for potential improvement using web-technologies include;i.                    Convenient shopping experience for the customerii.                  Easy accessibilityiii.                Secure payment gateway, provided the company is able to put in place adequate mechanism for ensuring the security of financial transactioniv.                Gaining feedback becomes much easier 6.0 Overview of the ICT to Support an Online Customer ExperienceICT can help in supporting the online customer experience by way of;·         Protecting private information of the customer·         Saving the network of the company from different types of attacks like defacing, password theft, virus attacks, eavesdropping by putting in place firewalls like circuit-level gateways and application gateways.·         Allowing ease of navigation for the authorised customers·         Saving the transmitted data in the form of orders, customer details, payment receipts etc. from getting corrupted. If the data is corrupted, this would result in difficulties for the customer as well as the company.·         Strengthening the supply as well as distribution networks of the virtual platform.7.0 An Evaluation of Woolworth’s Current WebsiteThe current website of Woolworth appears quite attractive with discount offers prominently displayed on the front page. Different drop-down menus indicating Prices, Fresh food ideas, health & Well being, Fresh Food Kids, Community, Shop Online, Everyday Services, and About Us further help in navigating the latest updates on the website and the internet store. One important link on the front page is the ‘Community Grant’. Its’ quite interesting to know that Woolworth has chosen to highlight the ‘corporate social responsibility’ aspect prominently on the home page itself. This speaks volumes about the intentions of the company for becoming a partner in community development. The online store has plenty to offer for the customers, besides providing information about the location of its brick and mortar stores.8.0 An Evaluation of Woolworth’s the Online Customer ExperienceOnline experience depends primarily on two things;i.                    Ease of navigationii.                  Packaging and promotion i.e. attractiveness of the website to frequent as well as occasional visitor/siii.                Level of confidence amongst the online community to entrust the website with financial transactionsWoolworth appears to have scored well in these aspects. If one is to go by the experience of some diehard fans of Woolworth, the online customer experience on the website of Woolworth has been able to achieve the objectives. The company states[1], “At Woolworths, we’re committed to providing our customers with the best shopping experience possible. That’s why we offer the finest quality fresh foods at the best value.”9.0 A comparison of Woolworth’s benchmarked against its key competitorsRetail business is known to be one of the toughest in terms of competition. As compared to some of the competitors like Wal-Mart, Tesco etc. the company is yet to achieve the kind of brand identity that is available to such competitors. In fact many of its competitors have also dominated markets like India, China and other prominent markets in the region. 10.0. A recommendation for improvement WoolworthWoolworth would do world of good to itself if it consolidates its position in the existing markets available to the company before venturing out in other markets/ regions. In view of the recessionary trends, it is certainly not advisable to explore unknown territories.ConclusionWoolworth has a significant presence in Australia and many other countries. The company has been able to satisfy its customers with decent value additions to the products and services in the past, and it is expected that it would continue to strengthen its hold in the existing markets, before exploring more opportunities.References:1.      Corderio, Maria Ines and Carvalho, Joaquim de (2002). ‘Web Services: What they are and their importance for libraries’. VINE, Volume 32, Number 4, Issue 129. MCB UP Limited.2.      Datamonitor (2009). Global Food Retail – Industry Profile. Datamonitor Asia Pacific, Sydney, Australia.3.      Datamonitor (2009a). Global Multiline Retail – Industry Profile. Datamonitor Asia Pacific, Sydney, Australia.4.      Saren, M. J. and Tzokas, N. X. (1997), “Some Dangerous Axioms of Relationship Marketing”, 5th International Colloquium in Relationship Marketing, Cranfield University, November.5.      Stem, L. W. & El-Ansary, A, I. (1992) Marketing Channels (4th ed), Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice Hall.6.      Woolworth (2010). The Fresh Food People. Available online at http://www.woolworths.com.au/wps/wcm/connect/webSite/Woolworths/ (May 13, 2010)[1] http://www.woolworths.com.au/wps/wcm/connect/Website/Woolworths/About-Us/Woolworths-Facts/