NEW YORK: Walmart has completed the centralisation of its marketing research function not only across research disciplines but across two retail divisions as well.

Speaking at a research conference in late 2013, Cindy Casper, Sam's Club's senior director/insights and research, said: "About two years ago, we combined Sam's Insights [team] and Wal-Mart Insights to create a Center of Excellence that really would reach across disciplines."

With that consolidation came the world's largest marketer's return to syndicated research, a practice it had publicly questioned when it walked away from Nielsen's PRISM data system in 2009.

"If you have different people on different teams in charge of different sources of insight, they tend to only see the world through that lens," Casper explained to the TMRE assembly.

"I really think there's power in bridging those worlds and bringing the different sources of knowledge together. And that's exactly what Wal-Mart and Sam's Club are endeavouring to do," she added

In recounting the assembly of a program in support of the holiday-buying season (Warc subscribers can read the full exclusive story here: Less is more: Walmart and Sam's Club reimagine insights), Casper outlined how the new consolidated marketing research group now relies on a variety of newly consolidated resources, including syndicated data.

"Walmart has re-engaged in the syndicated space," she said, "so we now have rich data and we know every week what our members are buying, what they're buying with us and what they're buying elsewhere."

Sam's Club's own data was also analysed to see what members bought during different weeks of the year, while the effectiveness of different marketing messages was assessed. "We have incredible intelligence on what messages we have we pushed to what members and how they responded," noted Casper.

In addition to primary and secondary research to help build a picture of members' needs, different creatives were pre-tested "to help optimize the messages and the formats that we use to communicate them".

"There's a difference between when [consumers] start thinking about something – especially a very considered purchase –and when they actually make the purchase decision," said Casper. "We want [to get into] the consideration set."

And she stressed the need to turn data into action. "My big 'aha' was [that] this framework should not be a summary of what we know," Casper revealed. "I needed to turn it into, 'So what do we do about this?"

Data sourced from Warc