Monday, April 18, 2011

Retail + Social + Mobile = @WalmartLabs

Eric Schmidt famously observed that every two days now, we create as much data as we did from the dawn of civilization until 2003. A lot of the new data is not locked away in enterprise databases, but is freely available to the world in the form of social media: status updates, tweets, blogs, and videos.
At Kosmix, we’ve been building a platform, called the Social Genome, to organize this data deluge by adding a layer of semantic understanding. Conversations in social media revolve around “social elements” such as people, places, topics, products, and events. For example, when I tweet “Loved Angelina Jolie in Salt,” the tweet connects me (a user) to Angelia Jolie (an actress) and SALT (a movie). By analyzing the huge volume of data produced every day on social media, the Social Genome builds rich profiles of users, topics, products, places, and events.
The Social Genome platform powers the sites Kosmix operates today: TweetBeat, a real-time social media filter for live events;, a site to discover content by topic; and RightHealth, one of the top three health and medical information sites by global reach.  In March, these properties together served over 17.5 million unique visitors worldwide, who spent over 5.5 billion seconds on our services.
Quite a few of us at Kosmix have backgrounds in ecommerce, having worked at companies such as and eBay. As we worked on the Social Genome platform, it became apparent to us that this platform could transform ecommerce by providing an unprecedented level of understanding about customers and products, going well beyond purchase data. The Social Genome enables us to take search, personalization and recommendations to the next level.
That’s why we were so excited when Walmart invited us to share with them our vision for the future of retailing. Walmart is the world’s largest retailer, with 10.5 billion customer visits every year to their stores and 1.5 billion online – 1 in 10 customers around the world shop Walmart online, and that proportion is growing. More and more visitors to the retail stores are armed with powerful mobile phones, which they use both to discover products and to connect with their friends and with the world. It was very soon apparent that the Walmart leadership shared our vision and our enthusiasm. And so @WalmartLabs was born (official announcement here).
We are at an inflection point in the development of ecommerce. The first generation of ecommerce was about bringing the store to the web. The next generation will be about building integrated experiences that leverage the store, the web, and mobile, with social identity being the glue that binds the experience. Walmart’s enormous global reach and incredible scale of operations -- from the United States and Europe to growing markets like China and India -- is unprecedented. @WalmartLabs, which combines Walmart’s scale with Kosmix’s social genome platform, is in a unique position to invent and build this future.
It is every technologist’s dream that the products they build will impact billions and will continue on to the next generation. The social commerce opportunity is huge, and today is day zero. We have liftoff!