Venkat Achanta, who has been chief data officer with Wal-Mart since 2014, is leaving the retailer to become chief data and analytics officer at consumer data firm Neustar, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Achanta played a major role in evolving how Wal-Mart leveraged analytics as the retailer increased its technology investment to better address changing e-commerce customer behaviors.
The WSJ story notes that as customers increasingly shop via mobile phones and other online devices, retailers have started to collect much more consumer data that their marketing teams can now use to create more targeted promotions.
Wal-Mart definitely has been investing a lot in the technology side of its business recently as it aims to adapt to a retail world being reshaped by technology advances, so losing a high-ranking technology executive right now as it's trying to up its game is not a great bit of news for the retailer.
Achanta's departure may look like a little bit of a sideways move for him in terms of title, but in reality, he's shifting from leading the data analytics charge for a single firm to leading it for another that works on behalf of many clients. At this point, no reports have surfaced that suggest his departure from Wal-Mart was anything more complicated than that.
For Wal-Mart's sake, hopefully it can find another experienced analytics executive to fill Achanta's shoes, while also comtinuing to take advantage of practices he may have put in place to analyze data and more broadly employ it. Retailers certainly need to ensure their websites and online checkout pages are easy to use if they want to succeed in the e-commerce era, but they also need to learn how to leverage the massive amounts of new data they're collecting about their customers to help them create the best possible and most personal shopping experiences to keep the buyers coming back.
Wal-Mart spent more than $10.5 billion on IT in 2015, topping the list of the world's biggest technology spenders, according to IDC research published earlier this year. The retailer has said it plans to spend $2 billion on e-commerce by the end of 2017.