Walmart: A relentless focus on change

"Sam Walton said the only way to stay in front of change is to be relentless," said Andy Murray, SVP, creative, Walmart (NYSE: WMT). Throughout Walmart's history that relentless focus was squarely on innovating in supply chain, logistics and point-of-purchase technology — anything that helps to optimize operations. Today, that focus is being retrained on marketing.

"Cracks are opening up in the marketing works," Murray told attendees at the Shopper Marketing Summit Tuesday. "The consumer is so far ahead in terms of technology, they are out in front of us. Customer changes have to be based on the benefits to them."

Price is more important to Walmart shoppers today than ever. Ten years ago, roughly 50 percent of shoppers said price was the most important thing about where they chose to shop, today 75 percent of shoppers say so.

But shoppers are segmenting in more ways than budgetary. Households with children are on the decline and now comprise just 20 percent of U.S. households, said Murray. Shoppers, particularly younger shoppers, care more about where the products they buy come from. And of course there's mobile — 48 percent of Walmart's 2013 online holiday traffic came from mobile devices.

Walmart is using Big Data to better reach these shoppers, to deliver meaningful messages and programs across digital platforms. For shoppers who care about where goods are made, there's a commitment to support U.S. jobs and manufacturing to the tune of $250 billion over the next 10 years, supported by advertising that was focused on the dignity of work, rather than Walmart's commitment. "We saw conversion rates on par with a seasonal campaign after the ads ran," said Murray.

For shoppers focused on savings and discounts, Walmart launched the Savings Catcher tool that compares a shopper's purchases with products found elsewhere for less and automatically credits the difference back to them.

Customization is also on Walmart's radar. The retailer is working on customizing messages played on its in-store network by location and will soon be incorporating triggers based on weather, offering ads and deals for relevant merchandise, said Murray. Duane Reade pharmacy's new program provides a similar service for New Yorkers, sending text messages and emails based on the weather.

Murray joined Walmart in August 2013, leaving behind Saatchi & Saatchi X, a start-up focused on shopper marketing. Being part of a startup "makes it easier to understand big data," he said. "You've got to find a way to learn more and immerse yourself in these new technologies. It will be increasingly difficult to stay relevant without (that)."

Walmart is currently focused on the shopping trip, defining the many trips and winning them. And when it comes to suppliers, anything that can shed light on this earns points. "Give us actionable insights," he said. "For us it comes back to trips. We have to win these trips."

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