Nine takeaways: How Adobe is delivering personalized, digital experiences to Walmart employees

February 10, 2021 Updated: June 1, 2022 by

The DWG Technology and Research Institute brings together organizations, technology providers and experts to share knowledge, ideas and perspectives securely and confidentially, to significantly improve and reimagine the way we work today and in the future.

In a January 2021 DWG Institute Technology Exchange, we partnered with Adobe and Walmart to hear how Walmart drives digital experiences using Adobe technology. Featured in the session were:

  • Josh Van Tonder, Group Product Marketing Manager, Adobe
  • Paul Bucalo, Director, Enterprise Content and Search, Walmart
  • Steve Wilson, Director, Digital Strategy and Brand Engagement, Walmart
  • A Taylor King, Director, Digital Strategy, Global Communications, Walmart

This post explores several takeaways from the session.

The first DWG Institute Technology Exchange of 2021

The DWG Institute Technology Exchanges bring technology providers and practitioners together so they can learn from each other. In our first session of 2021 we heard from Adobe about how technologies such as Adobe Experience Manager are delivering personalized, digital experiences for employees that are equal to the kind of experiences being offered to consumers. A strong example of this is Walmart. Global retailer Walmart is committed to driving content and delivering channels to associates that are “consumer-grade”. In the Technology Exchange, members of Walmart’s Digital and Communications team showed some of the approaches that help them succeed in delivering strong digital experiences to more than 2 million associates around the world, mainly leveraging Adobe technology.

About the Adobe Experience Cloud

Adobe is well-known for providing software focused on delivering digital experiences. This is not just to support customers but can be used to support employees too. During the Technology Exchange, Josh from Adobe explained that, with the evolution of complex digital workplace landscapes often involving multiple tools, plus the dramatic increase in remote working, it’s never been more important for an intranet or digital workplace environment to support:

  • consistent communications
  • streamlined, personalized self-service
  • anywhere, any device connectivity.

Adobe’s products, including Adobe Experience Manager (a content management system, CMS), Adobe Analytics (an analytics platform) and Adobe Target (a personalization engine) all sit within the Adobe Experience Cloud. Josh outlined four different aspects of Adobe’s value proposition that these products combine to offer and which support a strong digital employee experience:

  • a powerful centralized CMS for internal and external sites
  • content agility and flexibility for authoring, delivery and governance
  • out-of-the-box tools to personalize, based on authorization, profiles or data driven insights
  • agile integrations with out-of-the-box connectors and an “API-first” architecture.

How Walmart delivers digital experiences to associates

Walmart is one of the world’s largest retailers and a major global brand, with 2.2 million associates globally, including 1.5 million in the US alone. It operates 11,400 stores in 26 different countries.

The sheer size of the workforce makes OneWalmart, the company’s intranet, one of the world’s largest, with approximately 3 million page views per day. The Walmart team aim to provide a “consumer-grade” experience for associates, just as they do for customers – and in the Technology Exchange, they took us through some of their approaches and how they use the Adobe Experience platform to deliver on this.

Here are nine takeaways that really stood out for us.

1. Taking a platform approach

Walmart takes what it refers to as a “platform approach” to digital employee experience, with the intranet as a “platform for anyone at Walmart to build their own website”. Consequently, there are more than 300 separate sites on the platform, although templates help to maintain consistency and a strong user experience. This approach also ensures that content and technology are kept separately, meaning that content contributors can very easily add content, as well as having the power to configure different components, including adding integrated applications.

Here, two approaches are important. Firstly, there is a common technology, with Adobe Experience Manager as the base CMS, along with a range of other Adobe Experience Cloud applications, including Adobe Analytics. Secondly, the team works on a very tight agile model with a new release after each two-week sprint, and communications delivered through a similar agile methodology and mindset.

2 . Robust approaches to analytics, personalization and search

One of the challenges for OneWalmart is to ensure that content and experiences are relevant across Walmart’s highly diverse workforce. To achieve this, there is pretty granular personalization in place at scale, helping to ensure that the right content is targeted to different associate groups.

The team takes a robust approach, which is driven by analytics, with four main pillars:

  • Adobe Analytics: the team uses Adobe Analytics to deliver data-driven improvements.
  • Anticipation: combining search and analytics to deliver content before users look for it.
  • Behavioural targeting: content delivery based on user behaviour, group membership and more.
  • Content targeting: delivering content to the right groups.

The team also takes an integrated approach to search, with four main pillars – Personalization, Content Quality, Analytics and the Search Engine.

3. A comprehensive omnichannel strategy

As a global retailer, Walmart operates across multiple channels, including social media, digital signage, mobile apps and print. However, what makes it different from most organizations is that this strategy takes a holistic view of internal and external channels, with some content delivered to associates the same as that delivered to customers. Channels and content are not delivered in isolation, with internal and external channels “constantly rubbing up together”.

4. One digital team covering internal and external

A major enabler of this omnichannel strategy is the merging of the internal and external comms teams into a single entity. This single team operates like a full-service communication and digital marketing agency, which is agile, flexible, dynamic and campaign-focused.

The Digital Strategy and Brand Engagement team has a mission to “protect and support the reputation of the Walmart brand and the broader Walmart enterprise at large, for end-to-end content strategy, development and execution in service of Walmart’s overall goals”. The team also operates a content strategy that tells Walmart’s story to associates, customers, media, investors and elites.

Delivery is carried out across three main parts of the team:

  • Strategy & Planning: stakeholder relations, campaign strategy, alignment.
  • Channels: OneWalmart (intranet), corporate websites, FB Workplace, associate email channels, and more.
  • Creative & Social: social media channels, creative, editorial and radio.

5. A consistent content strategy

The team operates a consistent content strategy that focuses on particular elements, including:

  • Quick-turn, breaking news: viral posts, crisis communications etc.
  • Cornerstone moments: Associates’ week, corporate earnings.
  • Highlight initiatives & PR: ongoing business news.
  • Executives in the social space: Instagram, LinkedIn, episodes etc.
  • Associate operations/support: connecting associates with business information.
  • Associate engagement: Walmart World ecosystem (storytelling, people-focused content).
  • Enterprise creative support: content creation across multiple formats.
  • Brand strategy: partnering with other teams to guide Walmart’s employment brand.

6. People-centred content across different channels

The Walmart team heavily focus on people-centred content across different channels. We were shown a number of examples of this including the associate intranet, where approximately 60% of content is actually open for all to see, some of which celebrates associate achievements and can be accessed by the public. This is essentially aimed at employees when they are off the clock, with personalized experiences delivered through Adobe Target once employees are at work.

Most of the associate-centred stories are featured in a channel branded “Walmart World”. Here the team pulls in HR information to celebrate staff who reach key milestone dates, some of whom then feature in larger stories. Previously, much of the background work for this was done manually, but some automation has saved time.

The stories on Walmart World are often featured across multiple channels, including social media. In the session we heard of one story celebrating a staff member who has been at Walmart for 50 years that appeared across 20 different channels, both internal and external.

Another important type of content are welcome emails, which are targeted to new employees to make them feel welcome and encourage them to explore content and resources.

7. Leveraging data to curate content

To drive efficiency, Walmart’s digital channels also focus on supporting operations and helping staff to get things done. In the session, the team outlined their key challenge, which is to “empower every associate with the information they need to run their business, while removing friction from the associate experience”.

Here, Walmart leverages specific personas in Adobe Target, which helps to serve up dynamic experiences that connect different groups to more operational content. For example, in OneWalmart, the navigation and also a component with featured links are both curated to a person’s role. HR data, analytics from Adobe Analytics and the capabilities of Adobe Target combine to deliver relevant links, for example to new starters.

8. A focus on rich media

Because a core objective of the digital team is to deliver consumer-grade experiences, there is also a focus on rich media. For example, Walmart has created “The Huddle”, a podcast in video format, which features John Furner, CEO of Walmart US, and covers items such as inspiring interviews with employees. Unusually, there is also a Walmart associate radio station, which is streamed over the internet.

9. Integrating high-value data and applications

With a company of Walmart’s size, there is a huge range of different applications to support operations. Some of these are directly integrated into the intranet, so associates don’t have to visit the application to either view data or complete simple transactions. This saves time and makes the associate’s working day that bit easier. During the session, we saw examples of integrations, including an employee scheduling tool and the company’s store task management application.

Content can also be served up in different applications, taking a “headless” approach. One example of this is an app for associates on the store floor, where they can ask questions about products, with the answers served up through a bot.

Our thanks for Josh, Paul, Steve and Taylor for a brilliant Technology Exchange!

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Categorised in: Collaboration, Content management, Digital workplace, DWG Institute, HR intranets, Metrics & measurement

Steve Bynghall

Steve Bynghall is a freelance consultant, researcher and writer specializing in the digital workplace, intranets, knowledge management, collaboration and other digital themes. He is DWG’s Research and Knowledge Lead, a benchmark evaluator and research analyst for DWG.

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