Different ways Walmart uses analytics

From online activity to in-store purchases and social mentions, Walmart has more customer connections than any retailer in the world. According to Daniel Thorpe, Senior Director of Analytics for Global Customer Insights, the company sees 300,000 social mentions per week.

Thorpe leads a team of analysts responsible for using that data to understand customers holistically based on self-reported and behavioural data and leveraging big data from social media and click streams. Thorpe and Elpida Ormanidou, Senior Director of HR Business Analytics and Budgeting, discussed the analytical culture at Walmart and how their two teams work together to improve employee IQ and customer EQ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient).

“Elpida does a lot of work in understanding her associates, the same way a lot of us do with our customers,” explained Thorpe. In fact, with 1.2 million associates, Walmart’s employee numbers are larger than most company’s customer numbers. The company hires half a million new associates every year, and Ormanidou leads the analytics efforts within HR that include forecasting hiring needs to meet annual goals.

The two teams are so invested in learning from one another that they have developed a four-pronged way of looking at their data that encompasses associate and customer projects.

In-the-box behaviours.From Thorpe’s perspective, this is primarily about understanding what customers are buying. For Ormanidou, inside the box refers to analytics projects inside HR to analyse expertise built within a functional area.
Out-of-the-box behaviours.Here, customer analytics involve looking at shared data from partners and other retailers, to better understand what customer’s behaviours are outside of Walmart. For HR, out-of-the-box analytics involve projects across divisional teams.
Stated behaviours and attitudes.In this category, customer analytics projects involve research of online and offline data to understand what’s on customers’ minds. In HR, there is also an interest in knowing what’s on associates’ minds, and this is accomplished through a variety of methods, including surveys, one-on-ones and “coaching by walking around.”
Actual cross-channel purchase behaviour.This last category is a growth area for both customer and associate analytics, says Thorpe. On the customer side, it’s about understanding how online behaviour influences in-store behaviours, and vice versa. From the associate side, these projects involve integrating analytics across the company. “How do you get the knowledge that associates bring, harness it and make it available for everybody in the organization?” asks Ormanidou.
Functionally, analytics may be implemented differently between the two groups, but this system helps the two teams learn from each other and align goals. “This is a general framework that both HR and marketing and operations can use to understand members, associates and customers,” says Thorpe.

The framework also reflects the community that has built up around analytics within Walmart. In fact, the company has held an annual analytics conference internally for two years running, with 400-500 attendees sharing and learning from each other.

“To be effective in the organization, we must do this at the speed of retail,” concludes Thorpe. “There is a belief here that analytics can drive the organization. It’s a belief from a diverse group of analysts throughout the company and a belief at the top.”