How Four of America’s Top Marketers Use Data

Walmart's CMO notes strides in just the past year

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A panel of four c-suite marketers at last week’s ANA Masters of Marketing conference agreed that although there are still significant obstacles in understanding big data, some are surprisingly closer to figuring it out than you may think.  

Walmart’s CMO Stephen Quinn was particularly vocal about the strides that his brand has made within the past year in linking together digital and in-store data, especially as more shoppers walk into stores with smartphones and tablets.

"We have a customer knowledge platform that is our customer data that really didn’t exist two years ago," Quinn said. "In the past, [data sets have] been separate in order to build up that capability, but really it’s been the last two years—even the last year—where we’ve had data to see horizontally what the customer is doing internally."

This summer, Walmart rolled out a new mobile app called Savings Catcher that pulls in pricing information from competitors by scanning a customer’s receipt. If a product is cheaper elsewhere, shoppers get the money back on a gift card. In addition to saving consumers money, the app also collects troves of data on shoppers.

Quinn also talked about the retailer’s work with weather data to drive sales. A couple of years ago, Walmart met with the Weather Channel to link up point-of-sale and weather data. Per Quinn, Walmart found "thousands of correlations" between products and specific weather conditions that were then used to create customized advertising.

Despite these gains, Quinn said that Walmart’s biggest challenge with data is gleaning when or why shoppers switch over to competitors.

Pinning Down Location Data

MillerCoors’ CMO Andrew England offered a different stance on data given that his brand’s products are distributed at multiple retailers and locations.

The brewer prioritizes data that clusters groups of consumers’ shopping habits together. "We are less at a level of tracking individual consumers. We’re at the level of trying to aggregate consumer behavior that we can then derive from," England said.

Mobile is another big priority for the company. Similar to most marketers nowadays, MillerCoors creates all of its digital campaigns for mobile. But England sees a more interesting data opportunity when consumers start buying beer through their smartphones.

"Then I can track something if they’re buying a beer [through] the location and I can see what else they’re buying, as well. All of the sudden that really opens up this whole world," he said.

Real-Time Data

Visa marketing leader Kevin Burke used an example from this year’s World Cup to explain how the financial giant jumps on social data in real time.

For its second sponsorship of FIFA’s global soccer tournament, Visa worked with Facebook to find unique segments of soccer fans on the social platform. Visa’s campaign used social and transactional data to form clusters of people who were served ads.

The hyperlocal insight was then used to fuel Visa’s campaign at a global scale. "We were making decisions real-time across a thousand different pieces that we had created for the World Cup—we were doing that across Brazil but [also] doing it globally because we were activated in 65 countries," Burke noted.

Organizing for Data

At the same time that brands appear to be putting a bigger focus on data, Starcom USA CEO Lisa Donohue remarked that not enough marketers are efficient in organizing their efforts.

Her agency has built a team of 50 people who home in on data for clients like Kraft, which was credited in a presentation on Friday. Kraft CMO Deanie Elsner claimed that the company is collecting 22,000 pieces of data from its 100 million online visits each year. The packaged-goods marketer uses the data to form 500 segments of consumers to buy ads against. 

Donohue argued that marketers who get a grip on data have better insight into digital’s full spectrum, including native advertising and social. 

"People are not spending enough time deciding what their infrastructure will be based on their business model," Donohue said. "When you do that, then you can get to the data that matters that can drive business strategy."

@laurenjohnson Lauren Johnson is a senior technology editor for Adweek, where she specializes in covering mobile, social platforms and emerging tech.