How Walmart Serves In-Store Ads Based On Data

October 29, 2014 by Dave Haynes

infoPricingImageThe truly smart people in this business tend to “get” the power and importance of live and aggregated data to not only get fresh information on the screens, but to also shape scheduling based on what the data is telling the platform.

As you might expect, Walmart is pretty spanking good at that stuff.

There’s a piece in Ad Age that goes into considerable detail as to how the biggest retailer on the planet uses weather data to optimize store-level merchandising and hyper-local digital advertising. The information came out of talks CMO Stephen Quinn did at the recent University of Arkansas’ Center for Retail Excellence, at the Association of National Advertisers Masters of Marketing Conference in Orlando, and with the publication.

Quinn talked about how they mine data from Weather Co.

From Ad Age:

“We didn’t know, for example, that when it’s low wind, that has some impact on whether or not people will eat berries,” Mr. Quinn said at the University of Arkansas Oct. 9. Ideal berry weather turns out to be low wind with temperatures below 80 degrees. So, Walmart has begun serving up merchandising displays and digital ads for berries in Zip Codes where such weather exists, and as much as tripling berry sales when it does, he said.

Walmart also has found people are more likely to eat steak when it’s warm out with higher winds but no rain, but not if it gets too hot. On the other hand, ground beef does better with higher temperature, low wind, and mostly sunny conditions. Salads sell better when the temperature tops 80 but winds are low. “You don’t necessarily have to know why,” Mr. Quinn said. “Just serve up the hamburger ads in those conditions,” which he said has led to an 18% improvement in sales.

“We’re now able to do this at scale,” he said. “So we now can say to a partner, such as Gatorade, that we’ll only serve up your ads when it’s 95 degrees out.”

Walmart has found thousands of such correlations that it’s now trying to harness, he said.
Among other ways Walmart is trying to use data to improve its merchandising or marketing is by tracking trends on Pinterest. “We can see stuff trending on Pinterest, like all these inexpensive crafts people can make with Mason jars,” Mr. Quinn said at the ANA conference Oct. 17. “And we’ll put that Pinterest post right over an end cap and all the things you need to do that craft for $5 or $7, and people are just delighted. It makes Walmart seem more relevant.”

Real state integration between CMS systems, stores and third-party sources is soooo much more than changing pricing. If you can get at the information, structure it and put in a reliable format, you can start doing stuff that mashes up everything from current and historical weather to inventory to logistics to social media sentiment trending and behavioural economics.

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