Digital Conversations: Ed Child of Walmart

At Signal, we love to stay tapped into how data and people-based marketing are empowering retailers to take on some of the toughest business challenges. We recently sat down with Ed Child to discuss how he approaches this in his role as Director – Global Customer Insight & Analytics at Walmart. In this position, Ed uses customer data to enhance the retailer’s customer relationship management, targeting and personalization capabilities.

Before taking on this role in August 2015, Ed served as the Head of Customer Data & Effectiveness at Asda, the British supermarket subsidiary of Walmart. He began his career working in geographic information systems and analytics in the financial services sector until he took on the challenge of helping Asda measure, manage and act on data in real time.

Today, Ed works to tackle the challenges associated with bridging the offline and online shopping experiences for consumers who have varying needs and preferences. His insight into the field is a valuable resource for any retailer who hopes use data in more effective ways, whether to improve shopping experiences or optimize digital media activations.

What does your typical day look like?

A typical day at Asda is never the same, which is one of the great things about working in retail; they weren’t joking when they talked about fast-moving consumer goods. Working in the space of using technology and data is fascinating because the industry is changing literally day-by-day and customers are changing how they use technology to shop smarter.

Ed Child, Director – Global Customer Insight & Analytics – Walmart

As data-driven marketing becomes more prevalent and customers are on more channels and devices, what kind of challenges does this present?

Today, customers are firmly in control and can now decide who they shop with and how they receive their groceries. With such a heavy dependence on technology, people expect personalized and customized experiences. This is a real challenge if you’re a traditional retailer like Asda. It gives marketers some great opportunities to change the way that customers view retail.

Can you tell me more about these challenges?

Traditional retailers such as Asda have excelled by having incredible delivery networks, running really great stores and being able to offer a one-stop-shopping experience. However, customer expectations have changed and the selection of goods and services is much wider, thanks to technology. The challenge for retailers is figuring out how to operate in this new omnichannel world. If the lifeblood or your business is built around a store-based experience, trying to deliver a truly seamless online experience is a huge undertaking.

What has been the importance of real-time in digital when it comes to bridging the online and offline shopping experiences?

At Asda, we’ve seen through our analytics that when it comes to online grocery shopping, the delivery experience is key to success. Grocery shopping through digital channels is all about convenience, and as soon as that has been destroyed, it’s a really tough job to retain a customer. I think the first stage was making this experience operationally correct, and then really focusing on the customer experience to ensure we were actually meeting shopper expectations. And that’s a big deal when you’re delivering goods remotely to someone’s home.

As a marketer focused on customer insight and analytics, what are your key goals for 2016?

Key for us is continuing to build strong relationships with customers, regardless of their shopping destination choice, whether that be in-store or online. We also want to make our customers feel valued by actually utilizing the data that we have so we can truly create convenience and personalization for shoppers.

Another big goal for us is to better understand the impact of our digital marketing spend. As grocery retailers, the bulk of transactions and revenue come from in-store, and we don’t have a store-based loyalty card. So it’s very challenging for us to measure the impact of our digital media spend on our store-based shoppers. There is a huge opportunity for us to continue to build the case for further digital investment. This goal, in particular, ladders up to our executive level leadership, who want to be really clear on how effective our marketing is.

Are you using your first-party data in new ways? Do you see this becoming a higher priority for you?

We’re already using first-party data in a traditional sense for CRM and targeting through traditional channels like email and direct mail. What we hope to do is leverage that data to interact with customers regardless of the channel they are on. To do this, we are looking at how we can use people-based marketing or targeting tools to extend targeted marketing beyond the traditional CRM channels. This undertaking is very complicated, so we need to work with specialized partners to make it happen.

Originally published March 18, 2016

Kari Brownsberger

Senior Director, Integrated Communications

Kari Brownsberger is the former Senior Director, Integrated Communications at Signal. Prior to Signal, Kari worked in the PR agency world, specializing in marketing technology. She is a graduate of Loyola University Chicago and originally from Ohio.

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