IAB Leadership Meeting: WalMart Global Commerce CEO Neil Ashe

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Wal-Mart Global eCommerce CEO Neil Ashe told 1000+ digital marketing pros at the IAB’s Annual Leadership Meeting in Palm Desert that their responsibility is to fully integrate their efforts throughout the organization.

Ashe, who formerly ran CBS Interactive, said top company execs have got to get away from the notion that the CIO is the only one who matters because “he has the ear of the CEO. That’s bunk,” he said. “You need everyone.”

“The org chart hasn’t changed all that much,” added Ashe. “But people are really changing. It is about inspiring change among key influentials in the organization.”

Ashe noted that Walmart.com has been set up as a separate organization, based in San Bruno, CA. But it has a major impact on the rest of WalMart, and works hard to blend its activities with WalMart.

Ultimately, a company needs to be judged on “its willingness to change, and its ability to invent,” said Ashe. “We need to deliver consistency across our units and bring together marketing, merchandising and technology in ways they’ve never been before.”

The top priority, Ashe added, is to coordinate the needs of the customer. “It is no longer up to the organization to do this,” said Ashe. “It happens at the point of the customers. It happens not where we choose, but where they choose. First and foremost, it is about how to deliver a better shopping experience for customers.”

It is also time to get over the novelty of Big Data concepts, and start thinking about how to actually apply data in meaningful ways. “Six-to-nine months ago, we all sat down and said ‘we’re sick’ of talking” about Big Data. We need to turn Big Data from a noun to a verb, and make it actionable,” said Ashe.

“We need it to help us help customers to find one more item; for merchants to sell one more item; to help our fulfillment centers do their job,” Ashe added. “That’s when data becomes actionable.”

Noting that WalMart was a pioneer in sharing its data with suppliers as far back as 1992, Ashe said that the company’s new efforts with data is “manifesting itself on site and in our stores; and manifesting in merchants in how they operate on our site and our store; and with operators, from scheduling to inventory outreach.

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