Wal-Mart is out with a fascinating presidential election poll of its female shoppers (a.k.a. Wal-Mart Moms) that reveals as much about Wal-Mart's fortunes as it does about Obama's and McCain's.
The poll of five battleground states finds Sen. Obama leading in three (Virginia, Nevada, Colorado) and Sen. McCain in the other two (Ohio and Florida), albeit by slim margins all around.
Obama's strength is surprising because Wal-Mart defines "Wal-Mart Moms" as "more socially conservative women who typically don't have a college degree, who are feeling the economic pinch and are shopping for its lower prices." Clearly, this sounds more like a description of a McCain supporter than an Obama backer.
So what's going on? Have these "socially-conservative women" gone liberal all of a sudden? Obviously not. What's happened is that as the economy has softened, the profile of the Wal-Mart shopper has changed. Apparently, more "college-educated, socially-liberal women" are now shopping at Wal-Mart because they are also "feeling the economic pinch and shopping for its lower prices."
This could be a momentary aberration that will correct the instant people are feeling better about the economy. Granted, that may not be anytime soon, but the point is that it also presents a huge opportunity for Wal-Mart to expand its base over the long-term.
Wal-Mart does appear to be attempting to capitalize on the situation by going "green" in a big way and offering $4 prescriptions, for example. This can't hurt, but Wal-Mart may be missing its greatest opportunity to win over women (and everybody else) for a long time to come.
What Wal-Mart needs to do, quite simply, is improve the shopping experience to a point where people don't shop there because they need to, but because they like to. Easier said than done, but Wal-Mart can look no further than to Best Buy, where a woman named Julie Gilbert is making Best Buy a great place for women to shop by becoming a great place for women to work. This is paying off for Best Buy big-time.
As Dori Molitor notes in the current issue of The Hub magazine: "The immediate impact on Best Buy's business is evident in its $2 billion of market-share growth from female shoppers between 2005 and 2007."
You can read all about Julie Gilbert and Best Buy here. It's a truly amazing story and a must-read for anyone who wants to understand how keen insights into women can drive phenomenal growth.