Analysts live to measure things, so what better company to have at the eMetrics conference than the world's largest retailer, Walmart. They have terabytes of data to measure and learn from.
That's a unique position to be in, but the tools and systems such a business employs could be instructive for just about anyone, from analytics teams to Web experience management professionals.
Driving Strategy + Measuring Conversion
Balaji Ram is director of site analytics and optimization of Walmart.com, and his team is focused on driving strategy and measuring conversions, he said at the emetrics conference this week. Walmart gets billions of page requests per year, Ram said, and it has 28 million social fans with about one third traffic coming from mobile.
In the last year and a half, Ram has quadrupled his analytics team, and it's a mix of data engineers, data scientists and business analysts. All need a mix of business and technical skills, he said, and that is because all of the analytics the company uses has to be tied to business performance.
Walmart uses an integrated analytics system including voice of the costumer technology, text mining and business intelligence, among other things, Ram said. One major focus has also been A/B testing, and nine out of 10 Walmart.com visitors is part of one or more tests, he said.
One way Walmart.com optimizes its Web experience for tablets is to use touch friendly search filters, for example.
Mobile + Social
Part of Walmart's tactical employment of its A/B testing involves mobile devices, as the above image shows. Sometimes, a landing page will go through up to six iterations before it produces the desired results, Ram said. That's not a bad thing, either. Both positive and negative results need to be tracked and learned from these tests, and it needs to be through the lens of the overall business impact.
On tablets, for example, it turns out most people access Walmart.com at night, and they experience a higher conversion rate overall than even smartphones. Introducing sales and clearance items on a tablet experience seems to have a big impact, Ram said. Another mobile initiative Walmart has employed is its Scan and Go app -- it allows customers to use a smartphone to scan and pay for items. That way, they don't even have to go through the checkout line.
Social isn't just another traffic channel, Ram said, and his team has to be creative there to engage those customers. Social media success is measured by what Walmart calls fan value. It's measured by site visits multiplied by total spend per visit.
From in the store to mobile and Web visits, even Walmart is focused on providing a unified customer experience, Ram said. For those who aren't in retail or don't have billions of online visitors per year, it's still instructive to see what such a large company is up to on the analytics side.