Walmart Exchange Combines Social With Sales Data To Create Retail Leverage With Brands

Interesting interview with Walmart CMO Stephen Quinn in Advertising Age this week. In it, he discusses the logic behind WMX, or the Walmart Exchange, a new digital media-buying platform utilizing data to target audiences. The reason for the interview were some meetings Walmart held with 200 of its biggest suppliers -- you know, brands -- and the role WMX is playing in their mix. I only know what I read in the Ad Age piece, but a couple of things struck me about the story that have significant bearing on the social media marketplace. One is that the data informing WMX’s targeting combines Walmart’s own, powerful first-party data on consumer purchasing behavior with social media data on what consumers are saying and thinking about brands.

That’s particularly interesting to me, because it is the first kind of data that originally shifted the power of consumer marketers from big brands to big retailers back in the 70s and 80s, and it looks like social media data could be a second part of that one-two punch. In both cases, it was consumer brand marketers that first faciliated the data that came back to bite them.

Originally, brand marketers backed the introduction of the UPC code to get better control of their manufacturing and distribution process, but most of the data about consumer purchases got collected at retail, which gave all the marketing intelligence to big retailers. It was the beginning of an era of information asymmetry that accelerated the rise of consumer and trade promotion in order to get distribution and positioning inside stores.

Now it seems Walmart wants to combine that with big digital data, especially social media conversations, that will give it even more information to leverage with brand marketers. In other words, a new land grab is about to take place in the marketing industry, except that this time it will take place in cyberspace.
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