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Mobilizing leaders to create customer-centered change

Rural customers shared their stories & insights with senior leaders at Walmart driving merchandise changes, increase in sales, and a new marketing campaign.

Walmart – the world’s largest retailer – had plenty of data showing that rural American shoppers’ needs were changing. But numbers and PowerPoint decks weren’t enough to inspire senior leaders to take action. To do that, they needed to be immersed in the lives of rural shoppers’ lives. Customers shared their stories with us through online communities and in-person interviews in rural U.S. markets.

Time and distance were their greatest challenges. They were spending enormous amounts of time couponing, budgeting, and planning because often the closest Walmart store was over a 45-minute drive away. And, once they got there, on-sale products advertised in the weekly circulars were out of stock. To inspire senior Walmart leaders, we used immersive storytelling to build empathy with these important customers.  Immersive storytelling amplified rural shopper insights, making them resonate throughout Walmart.

As a result, over 400 pop-up stores have been planned for opening across the U.S. in order to better serve rural customers. And, Walmart has refocused its growth strategy to: test rural market circular distribution to get them to customers faster; focus even more on in-stock product options and availability; brainstorm ways to resolve operational challenges and incentivize shoppers who buy in bulk. Walmart’s work with rural shoppers is proof that sharing deep customer understanding with everyone in the company can have positive impact – to both the business’s bottom line and customers’ lives.

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