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How Walmart is cultivating social intelligence for interdisciplinary strategy

Walmart is building a social analytics command center in its headquarters as it looks to adopt an interdisciplinary approach to leveraging data insights. 

Walmart is starting from scratch to build a social analytics insights and advocacy program to span across multiple disciplines and departments, according to a new case study from Brandwatch. Walmart is using the data analytics to spot emerging trends in public affairs and competitive intelligence, among other things.  

?Most brands recognize the value of a strong social presence, however many are unclear how to get more from social data,? said Joel Windels, vice president of inbound marketing at social media monitoring firm Brandwatch, which released the case study. ?Unlike Walmart, not all retailers have successfully managed to start making data-driven decisions.

?With that in mind, the Brandwatch social indices have shown that retail brands? owned accounts actually outperform a lot of other industries in many areas, and despite some stragglers, it?s still among the most innovative and forward-thinking sectors when it comes to social,? he said. 

Walmart is using Brandwatch Analytics and Vizia to fuel smarter decisions across the organization. 

Trusting the data
As such a large company with significant reach around the world, one of Walmart?s challenges is how to leverage insights gleaned from social intelligence so they are understood by the organization?s many different departments and used to their full advantage. This includes encouraging those who are not as familiar with analytics to trust the data. 

With this in mind, Walmart?s analytics and insights team recently secured budget to install a social analytics command center in the retailer?s headquarters, enabling anyone there to get more familiar with analytics. The goal is to demonstrate the power of analytics and help drive forward change in the organization. 

?For some retailers, the opportunity to blend different data sets together, such as weather, sales and social, actually represents a chance to discover new ways to improve company performance that a single data source couldn?t yield alone,? Mr. Windels said. 

?It?s through social analytics then, that these retailers are optimizing their offerings and informing the decisions that they make, in a way that simply wasn?t possible a decade ago,? he said. 

Emotional modeling
The retailer is also looking into emotional modeling to identify global open-source trends. Walmart prefers the term ?open-source intelligence? to ?social intelligence? to reflect the more sophisticated nature of the data, according to Brandwatch. 

On the public affairs front, Walmart?s director of analytics and insights, Chandler Wilson, reports that social analytics gives a less biased perspective on what is unfolding and can highlight connections that people may not see as quickly. As a result, better quality decisions can be made. 

For example, Walmart used social analytics when it announced in early 2015 that it would raise the minimum wage it paid employees to higher than the federal minimum wage. Following the announcement, analytics revealed a connection with global currency markets, enabling Walmart to link its announcement to commodities markets and some of the interest rates that were potentially going to be hiked. 

It is also important to not get too caught up in the data, per Mr. Wilson. The important thing is to make a human decision and encourage people to focus more on information gathering.

Walmart is also finding success using social data for competitive intelligence and highlighting emerging issues. The approach involves looking at key themes and key people to create networks and then contrasting this with economic and backend data to come up with a strategy for resolving an issue. 

Corporate strategy
As Walmart builds its social analytics insights program, it is bringing the data into new areas, such as global security and corporate strategy.

Social analytics is just one of many data sets that Walmart analyzes. 

?As the number of communication channels multiplies, providing a quality and seamless experience across each is increasingly difficult,? Mr. Windels said. 

?In light of this, it is imperative that businesses develop concrete strategies to constantly monitor the online landscape,? he said. ?Consumer insights from social media should support lines throughout the retail business: social customer service, marketing, public relations, product selection, and general business strategy.?