Big data and Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart is an American multinational retail corporation that runs chains of large discount department stores and warehouse stores. As one of the world’s largest public corporation, the corporation collects 2.5PB data from customers every hour, and the amount of data is 167 times more than Library of Congress.

On one hand, Wal-Mart is a pioneer of big data in the retail industry, and one of the first corporations to benefit by using big data. According to Rijmenam, Wal-Mart started using big data even before the term big data became known in the industry and they moved from an experiential 10-node Hadoop cluster to a 250-node Hadoop cluster in 2012. At the same time, they developed new tools to migrate their existing data from Oracle, Netezza and Greenplum hardware to their own systems. The objective was to incorporate 10 different websites into one website and store all the incoming data in the new Hadoop cluster. Since then they have taken big steps in integrating big data into the DNA of Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart has been in the retail chain, each product data, thus the sales rate and the inventory of these data become apparent. In addition, Wal-Mart kept record of the purchase list of consumer spending, the date of purchase and the weather and temperature of that day. Through the analysis of consumer shopping behavior and other unstructured data, Wal-Mart can find related products and optimize merchandise display, so that customers can purchase with ease and convenience.

One the other hand, Wal-Mart is always ready to help consumers to shop via app. Gibu Thomas is the Senior Vice President of Mobile and Digital at Wal-Mart, who is responsible for all the global mobile and digital media initiatives. He said: “Now e-commerce is closely related to mobile purchase. The world’s largest retailer will use big data to enhance the consumers shopping experience in the store.” He also added: “Our mobile strategy is both simple and audacious. We want to make mobile tools become indispensable for our customers while they are shopping in our stores and online.”

“The retail will improve each customers personalized experience for competition in the future, and this all will happen on the small screen in their hands,” said Gibu Thomas.

Now, Wal-Mart finishes nearly one third of traffic from mobile terminal during the holiday last year, the figure up to 40%. The phone app is also stimulating consumers purchase at the same time. The customers who use this app generally go to Wal-Mart more frequently and the time spent in the supermarket is also 40% longer than the average customers. Most of Wal-Mart’s customers have a smart phone. Their app now contains a shopping list of features that can tell customers the position of their wants and show them discount tickets of similar goods.

Wal-Mart is now testing a new payment system called “Scan and Go”. This system allows consumers to use smart phones to scan merchandise via the Wal-Mart application, and then go to self-pay counter to pay the bill. If Scan & Go system can be used in the near future, time spent on queuing will be greatly reduced. It is also predicted that this system may function like a cashier and replace a real one in the future.

This is an example of big data.


Emilia Wang


Lawson, S. 2013, Wal-Mart to send automated shopping lists to its mobile app, viewed 19 August 2014, <http://www.techhive.com/article/2039564/walmart-to-send-automated-shopping-lists-to-its-mobile-app.html&gt;

Milian, M. 2014, Retailers Use Big Data to Turn You Into a Big Spender, viewed 19 August 2014, <http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-06-03/retailers-use-big-data-to-turn-you-into-a-big-spender.html&gt;.

Rijmenam, V M. 2013, Wal-Mart Is Making Big Data Part of Its DNA, viewed 19 August 2014, <http://smartdatacollective.com/bigdatastartups/111681/walmart-makes-big-data-part-its-social-media&gt;.

Wal-Mart May Tap Customers to Deliver Online Orders, 2013, viewed 19 August 2014, <http://www.cnbc.com/id/100599890&gt;.

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