NEW YORK: Walmart, the retail giant, is drawing on insights from an online community of 300 digital mavens in order to gain a "sneak peek" into the future of shopping.

David Guenthner, Walmart's senior director/global consumer insights and analytics, discussed this subject at the Shopper Insights Forum held by the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) in Chicago.

"Telling the future is really, really tough. We just want to get a little bit of an edge; a little bit of a sneak peek into it," he said. (For more, including some sample insights generated from this community, read Warc's exclusive report: Walmart learns from digital mavens.)

The organisation has established the "ShopForward" community – a group containing 300 consumers who represent the digital "extreme" – to help it understand future behaviours.

"What we would posit is that some of the people who are most engaged in digital shopping [and] most engaged in digital saving today are probably a reasonable representation of what the general public will be doing tomorrow," said Guenthner. "And so that's where we start."

This group incorporates some individuals that regularly shop at Walmart's stores and some who do not. What they share in common, however, is a passion for the latest technology and digital tools.

"We're really trying to understand them on a whole host of dimensions, so we can understand how to serve a broader population in the future," Guenthner said.

Alongside their attitudes towards retail, this panel provides an insight into their lifestyles, values and relationship with technology.

"We're able to understand and interact with them 24/7. We listen to the customer conversations that come up organically," said Guenthner.

"And we will actually partner with these customers, and say, 'Hey: we're Walmart. We've heard you talk about your behaviour, we've heard you talk about your wants and needs. Let's try to create something to serve you better.'"

Data sourced from Warc