Walmart's CTO: Social Media Is All About Collecting Data

When Walmart (NYSE:WMT) talks about social media, it's usually coming from the WalmartLabs group in Silicon Valley. But on Wednesday morning (April 24), the retail giant's CTO, Chip Hernandez, gave the Bentonville perspective to an audience at the Bloomberg Enterprise Technology Summit in New York.

"The majority of our customers—the moms—they are out there in social media, and globally they control $20 trillion of spending. There is [an imperative] to understand what their needs are," Hernandez said, according to ZDNet.

And on the subject of customers using smartphones in stores, he added: "Everyone's going digital. This ties to big data. We need to understand in a big way, a real-time way, what the customer is doing (and why they're doing it, and where they're doing it) to take advantage of sensing and...turn data into insights to serve them better, whether it's in our stores or off-premise."

That's about as far from Silicon Valley-speak as you can get. Here, for contrast, is Wendy Bergh, VP of Walmart Global eCommerce, who works just south of San Francisco: "A key piece of Walmart's strategy is providing anytime, anywhere access to our customers," Bergh said at a conference two weeks ago. "When we serve them through the different channels, we want to tie those channels together to one holistic experience."

But with Hernandez, there's no gentle, enhanced-customer-experience approach. It's all about prying buying insights and CRM data out of customers (or potential customers) every time they use smartphones or social media.

There's nothing wrong with that. In fact, there's something very right about it. Bergh isn't kidding about that holistic experience on the customer-facing side. Hernandez is completely serious about rigorously collecting and mining that firehose of customer data. They're both true believers—just on different sides of those phones and social-media outlets.

And because they don't have to keep a foot in each camp, they can be true believers—even if they sound like they come from different planets.

For more:

- See this ZDNet story
- See this Mobile Commerce Daily story

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