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Why Walmart Is Willing to Lose Money for Customer Insights

Learn what Walmart is doing to gain customer insights and how building materials manufacturers can take the same approach (without losing money).

Photo of Zach Williams
Photo of Beth PopNikolov
by Zach Williams and Beth PopNikolov

Zach and Beth talk about the importance of gaining customer insights and how it applies to building products as well as big-box retailers.

More About This Show

The Smarter Building Materials Marketing podcast helps industry professionals find better ways to grow leads, sales and outperform the competition. It’s designed to give insight on how to create a results-driven digital marketing strategy for companies of any size.

In this episode, Zach and Beth share three ways to gain customer insights using data you already have on hand, how to interpret these insights and how to apply them to your business to become the leading manufacturer in your product category.


The Power of Customer Data

Whether your building materials company has an e-commerce platform or not, your online presence can and should be your best salesperson. One of the most important ways to make sure it’s working as effectively as possible is to inform your web content based on customer insights.

A great example of the power of customer data comes from Walmart. A recent Wall Street Journal article chronicles Walmart’s latest “secret weapon” against Amazon when it comes to gaining customer insights and data. Despite having double Amazon’s sales, Walmart has nowhere near the online giant’s level of insight around the customer decision-making process.

Jetblack Employee


To be more competitive in this area, Walmart launched a service in New York City called Jetblack that allows consumers to buy products over text. Jetblack shoppers then go buy the products and deliver them. The new element in the marketplace is meant to help Walmart answer questions people have about purchase decisions before the sale happens.

What’s really interesting about this new service, however, is that although Walmart is winning in overall sales, they’re actually losing money with Jetblack. They are willing to lose out on sales in order to gain valuable insights into customer data.

As a building materials manufacturer, profit is necessary, but if your only goal is sales, you’re only gaining a short-term win.

The new battleground is customer insights and data. Your company needs to stay competitive and get closer to your customers so you can pivot and improve your offerings in areas like marketing and technology.

3 Sources for Customer Data

While you probably can’t launch a sub-brand like Jetblack in order to gain customer insights, you can use customer data that you already have available at your fingertips. Here are three ways to access this data and successfully apply it to your business strategy.

#1: Your Company’s Website

You already have customer data available from your website through Google Analytics or a similar program. Not only can you use this information to figure how to get more conversions, but you can also use it to ask what the data tells you about your audience and how these trends have changed from the past.

Figure out what issues visitors are running into to see how you’re not serving them. When you look at your data through that lens, you’ll be much more competitive. Here’s an example.

Look at where people spend time on your website before they make a purchase or convert for something like requesting a sample. Seeing where they visit before they convert tells you about the questions they have. Were they on a product page and then moved to your FAQs? This tells you some type of important information might be missing when you describe your products. Did they visit case studies? That tells you they want to know your product is proven.

Look for your leading indicators to see what intrinsic questions your potential customers have before they request a sample or order your product. You can sell more effectively by pinpointing the behavior leading to those conversion points. This information also enables you to build customer personas and market to them more successfully by better understanding your sales funnel.

#2: Go Offline With Your Sales Team

In addition to your website, your sales team has customer insights as well. Ask them what questions they’re getting in the field so you can understand what’s being asked before leads are ready to make a purchase.

Talk to your sales team and ask them what concerns they’re hearing about that they weren't getting two years ago. This should also identify objections heard from leads so that you can then arm your sales team with answers to those issues. You can also make sure your products and services are solving those problems, whether they relate to delivery, lead times or ordering systems.

Listen to all of your audiences and deliver answers in a way no one else is doing. This process gives you an extra authority edge and shows you know what you’re doing by proactively raising an issue and providing a solution. Supply prospects with the content they need before they even know they need it, and you’ll win the market.

#3: Social Listening Tools

Social and search listening tools help you better understand the questions people have about a product or category online. A great, free example is Answer the Public, where you can search terms and get insights on what people are talking about. For example, if you input “house wrap,” you’ll see all sorts of search queries people have used, such as “how much does house wrap cost,” “how effective is house wrap” and “what are different environments house wrap works in.”

If your building materials company is not supplying answers to these questions, you’re going to lose out to someone who is. One of our clients, for example, is doing a great job with SEO but has no content on YouTube. Other competitors are starting to make headway in that space, showing that it’s important to make sure you’re the one supplying content around problems in all of the channels your audience is using.

When you do that, you’ll be seen as the trusted guide in your industry. One way to find out what questions your audience is asking is through social listening tools. These are paid tools that will watch for your brand and competitors, then analyze the context in which they’re mentioned. It could be a review on a site where you weren’t tagged so it’s not popping up on your radar.

Remember to shop around competitively for social listening tools because they’re not cheap and there are different levels of quality. And we always recommend that you pick a tool that will also analyze the data it finds. If you're comparing social listening tools, make sure they deliver analysis and recommendations for your online strategy, not just a report of their findings.

Your website, sales team and social listening tools are three great resources to start building your ideal customer profile. But if you don't have a feedback loop or a way to apply the data to your business, you're essentially gathering data and tossing it in the trash can.

Apply your data analysis in a way that matters so you can implement changes that relate specifically to buyer habits in your marketplace.

Have questions on how to apply your data to your website or marketing strategy? We’d love to help! Email us at [email protected] or check out one of our other podcasts.