Earlier this week, Comcast announced that beginning this spring, they would offer their broadband, digital video and Comcast Digital Voice VoIP package via "Connection Centers" in some 500 Wal-Marts.
My first reaction was a hearty "huh?" I thought this after flashing briefly on the demographics of Wal-Mart shoppers and VoIP users.
From my unempirical and admittedly stereotypicalobservation, Wal-Mart shopper demographics tend to skew toward women who are not especially affluent or well-educated. I mean, you won't find the trendy urban IKEA or Nordstrom shopper spending her Saturday afternoons at the Wal-Mart out by the four-lane on the outskirts of town.
And VoIP customers tend to skew toward males with relatively high education levels- and income brackets that go along with education.
But then I read a study of 2,000 U.S. consumers from Harris Interactive. The study mentions that American women (started humming that great Guess Who song as I typed that) were far less likely than men to know about VoIP then American men- 34 percent versus 62 percent.
To see where I am going with this, consider the comments of Harris Interactive research director Derek Eccleston:
For now, VoIP) is still a service used by a niche audience, mainly male. To tempt a broader range of consumers to try the service, players in the market need to generate greater awareness of the service, explaining what it does and how it works, clearly communicating the key benefits delivered by the service, and find ways to lower the perceived barriers to usage.
The most successful companies going forward will be those which deliver the right messages and the right mix of benefits to targeted segments of consumers with the most potential for take-up. Watch out for the winners and losers over the coming months," added Eccleston.
Note that Eccleston said "targeted segments of consumers with the most potential for take-up."
Although there are cheaper VoIP services than Comcast's, seems to me that reaching female consumers with an already demonstrable propensity to look for bargains is exactly what Comcast is intending to do by introducing a presence at Wal-Mart.