What Was The Secret Behind Walmart’s Rapid Ascension to Retail Glory?

Did you know that in 1987 Kmart was bigger than Walmart? It’s true. In fact, in the 1970s, Kmart was expanding so rapidly that they were adding a new store every week. For the later part of the 20th century, Kmart was America’s largest retail supply store. So why is Kmart now considered inferior to other retail stores? What did Walmart do to catch up and quickly surpass such a goliath of a corporation? Walmart was able to leverage real-time data to leap ahead of Kmart in growth and revenue. Their story provides a great lesson on the effectiveness of gaining real-time insight and how it can boost organizations’ performance.

Take a look at the chart on the right. In large part it underscores the clear and dramatic shift in Walmart and Kmart market clout over three short years. In 1987 Kmart reported revenue of $25.6 billion across 2223 stores while Walmart lagged far behind at $15.9 billion across 1198 stores. It would be hard to argue that Kmart was not the stronger, more established retailer. While Kmart continued to invest and grow, by 1990 Walmart’s revenue exceeded Kmart’s by $2.9 billion and with 279 fewer stores than their rival! How on earth did they accomplish such a monumental feat? It is a tale of leveraging centralized, real-time data to better understand what was happening at each store, optimize traditional processes, make better decisions, and ultimately, grow their bottom line. 

Walmart began collecting customer, product, and logistics data to gain deeper insights into customer behaviors and the products they purchased. Backed by real-time analysis and insights, they regionally optimized inventory in line with customer needs and tastes. And since insights were generated in real-time, Walmart was able to take immediate action rather than wait for a cumbersome, inefficient process of raw data collection, batch uploads, data analysis, and problem-solving to produce implementable action plans. Fingers crossed, that resultant plan might still be relevant. Speed indeed does matter!

Today, Walmart continues to collect vast amounts of data necessary to make more informed, better business decisions. With the emergence of e-commerce, the amount of data available to collect and analyze has grown tremendously. Every hour, Walmart collects 2.5 petabytes of unstructured data from 1 million customers. They collect extensive customer data on over 145 million Americans. Meanwhile, Kmart maintains its decline and has closed hundreds of its stores nationwide and continues to be overshadowed by Walmart and Target.

comparison between byte measurements

So, what can schools take away from this story? With new technologies emerging in the post-secondary education sector, it is now possible to collect learning and classroom data in real-time instead of continuing to rely on traditional batch uploads that take time to collect and enter into a system. Similarly to how Walmart made unparalleled strides in growth and efficiency, schools who take advantage of real-time data will leap forward in both operating efficiency and learning outcomes achieved through more timely support of students and instructors alike. These will become the institutions of the future and the reference model of “best practices” for all schools to follow.

Many schools have started to collect real-time data from their classrooms using CourseKey, a software platform that digitizes manual processes traditionally done using pen and paper. Through this digitization, CourseKey collects information such as attendance data and assessment and evaluation grades and uploads the data to the cloud in real-time. From here, school administration can make immediate decisions regarding student intervention, providing support to at-risk students before their situations become dire. Interested in learning more about the CourseKey platform? Visit CourseKey.com or request a demo with a team member below.

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