How Data Helps Walmart Stay on Top

how data helps walmart stay on top image

Walmart is a behemoth of a business success as the world’s largest company by revenue with operations all over the globe. There aren’t many businesses that can (or want) to come close to Walmart’s size, but the big-box retailer is still a treasure trove of interesting lessons that businesses of all sizes can explore.

Case in point: data.

Walmart is heavily invested in customer data that will increase revenue and customer satisfaction.

Here’s how Walmart is using data to grow (and what you can learn):

1. Be open to new data: This is key. Though Walmart had a number of high-level data processes in place prior to 2012, the company integrated big data “into the DNA of Walmart” that year with an experimental move that consolidated different systems, according to Datafloq, a blog by big data strategist Mark Van Rijenam. Though it’s an uncommonly large company, there is still a culture of experimentation around data, which fuels new discoveries and business practices.

The takeaway: You guessed it—be open to data. Without factual information, race directors make decisions based on assumptions, opinions or anecdotal data. Make data endemic to the culture of your organization by exploring how your processes may be improved with more information about your participants and their preferences. Collect the data that’s readily available via surveys, social media and industry news, but also actively look for other sources of data and ways to organize it.


2. Localize experiences for your participants: Like all large retailers, Walmart stores don’t offer the exact same selection from store-to-store. Retail stores, grocery stores and chain restaurants gather information on local preferences to localize the offerings, which is how you end up with the McRib sandwich at McDonald’s restaurants in Texas and a rice burger in McDonald’s restaurants in Japan.

Walmart takes this common practice one step further by utilizing fast-moving social data.

“Already, Walmart is able to optimize the local assortment of Walmart stores based on what the customers in the neighborhood are saying on social media,” according to Datafloq.

The takeaway: A one-size event experience does not fit all. Whether you’re thinking of hitting the road and expanding your event to other cities, or you just want to increase participants in your hometown, gather data that will help you make the experience unique to that place.

If you haven’t already, analyze the local culture and identify themes, activities and partners that you can add to capture the interest of more potential registrants.


How Walmart uses data


3. Gather, track, organize and use social data: The largest social media network has been around for over a decade and, though it’s given lots of lip service, the potential for social data to drive business decisions is still under-utilized.

One of the big data analysis changes Walmart made in 2012 was the creation of internal labs that mine different types of data, including social. Going beyond monitoring buzz around the company and the products it sells, Walmart said that it wanted to take social data into the meat of the business: inventory.

“Our goal is to tap into this social buzz and help Walmart with decision making on aspects like inventory and assortment,” said Arun Prasath, director of engineering at Walmart Labs, in a blog post.

“As an example, the figure below shows a reasonable spike in social activity about Sony’s new Android phone Xperia Z, few days ahead of its actual launch. Such insights can help our merchants make smarter decisions ahead of time.”

The takeaway: Figure out a way to use social data. You have a plan to promote your event on social, and maybe you’ve started to fill some of the gaps for participants on social with training and nutrition information or connecting participants with training groups.

The next phase of social isn’t about what you’re putting out, but about what you’re taking in. Social listening, like what Walmart employs, allows you to anticipate demand and create business strategies around what people actually want.


Data is what takes a generic strategy to grow your event and turns it into a more detailed, localized and efficient way to attract more people. How are you planning to use data to win this year?