Is Walmart the Future of Market Research?

Editor’s Note: Earlier this year, we had Linda Lomelino on our podcast to discuss how Walmart is now leveraging shopper data and serving commercial customers as a research supplier. This strategic decision positioned them as not just an iconic retailer, but a competitive vendor with a solid value proposition. We want GreenBook readers to know about this important development, not just our podcast listeners, so have a look and let us know what you think in the comments!

For more information on how Walmart is influencing the market research industry, tune into the GreenBook Podcast episode How Walmart is Commercializing the Power of Data Science streaming now!  

“For an industry that’s experiencing a mass acceleration in change, understanding what customers want can give companies a competitive advantage.”


The GreenBook podcast recently sat down with Linda Lomelino, the Senior Director of Product Management and data ventures at Walmart, to discuss their ambitious plans for its Luminate data research platform. Over the past three years, Linda and her team have built technologies that help Walmart listen to customers and bring them into the decision-making process. For an industry that’s experiencing a mass acceleration in change, understanding what customers want can give companies a competitive advantage.

Linda’s background in sociology, consumer insights, public policy, and public opinion makes her perfect for shedding some light on the new robust Walmart database platform and what it means for the industry. Here’s what we learned in our chat.

How people are choosing to shop post-pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed how people live their daily lives and how they decide to go grocery shopping was not immune to these new changes. This shift in customer/company relations has forced brands and retailers to understand their customers on a personal level to earn their business. 

To understand a customer base, a company needs to seek insights from the data collected from its customers. This more intimate customer relationship and the rise of the importance of understanding customer data has caused a new trend of companies investing in building internal data capabilities.

As the market research industry began evolving, Walmart wasn’t just a simple participant in this trend. Walmart was leading the charge and proved itself to be a trendsetter, once again. Being at the forefront of this massive shift in how market research is conducted, they are already looking to expand the Walmart data ventures.

Walmart is already serving external clients their data products and focusing on delivering value to their customers that will improve the customer experience. Their main goal is to continue to put out data products that serve the end customer.

What is Walmart Luminate? How is Walmart using it to become a Data Giant?

Walmart’s Luminate platform is being used by both internal stakeholders and suppliers to gain a better perspective of the customer from the merchant’s point of view. The platform is being offered commercially to suppliers and was previously provided internally to merchants. It gives U.S.-based merchants and suppliers access to complete customer insights so they can make decisions faster and easier.  

The difference between Luminate and other similar platforms is that it has a proprietary community that is carefully curated to ensure high engagement and response rates. This community has helped inform over a thousand business decisions over the last three years.

The market research industry is moving towards being more engaged with consumers, and Walmart’s Luminate allows them to do just that. Their new privacy-conscious and accessible platform lets merchants have a better dialogue with their consumers.

Other companies have tried to replicate the success of the Walmart database, including LinkedIn. They offered a similar service for a short time but quickly realized that the industry was too crazy and opted not to continue with the project.

How Walmart plans to grow their data ventures

As a next step in Walmart data ventures, they plan to add qualitative research capabilities to the platform. The Walmart insights team is looking to increase its research capabilities in both the quant and qual spaces and is considering partnering with other research providers to help them achieve this.

Walmart is considering partnering with companies, including Kirksey, to augment their facial coding and eye-tracking capabilities. Kirksey provides a next-gen insights platform that features an interactive mobile survey app with benefits like high response rates and short field time.

They are also working on a platform that will allow clients to bring in their partners to help with data collection and analysis. There is a need for an agile and flexible service component for technology-based companies.    

Platforms like these will help clients to do the best research possible. The company is working on making the platform easy to use. Democratizing access to data is a key motivation for this platform. It requires the right tools and expertise to be in place to help people make decisions.

Being at the forefront of this evolving industry, Walmart has started using technology and data to give experts a complete understanding of the market. This tactic has never been done at this scale before and has caused excitement around the future of the market research industry and the new ways it can grow.   

What does this mean for the future of market research?

The Walmart insights team, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, and with campuses in California and New Jersey, is excited about the potential for activation from insights and is looking to expand its teams. 

When it comes to growth in the market research industry, Walmart has proven itself to be the main player when it comes to innovation and keeping up with trends. Their commitment to listening to their customers and giving them the best possible experience has led them to create something that this industry has never seen before.  

Walmart has become an anomaly in the market research space. Where others have failed, Walmart seems to have soared. Instead of stopping while they’re ahead, they are looking forward to how they can grow their data ventures.