In a keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Walmart President and CEO Doug McMillon offered an inside look at how the retail giant is embracing new technologies to enhance the shopping experience for its customers. Through the use of augmented reality (AR), drones, generative AI, and other artificial intelligence innovations, Walmart is revolutionizing the retail industry.
At the trade show, Walmart unveiled a variety of new products that are poised to transform the shopping experience. These include two AI-powered tools for product search and replenishment, as well as a new AR social commerce platform called “Shop with Friends”. The company also showcased how it is leveraging AI across its various business sectors, including Sam’s Club and store associate apps.
One of the most groundbreaking developments is Walmart’s generative AI-powered search feature for iOS, which allows customers to search for products based on specific use cases rather than product or brand names. This feature is enabled through the integration of artificial intelligence, rivaling Google’s SGE (Search Generative Experience). Now, customers can simply ask Walmart to provide search results for a “football watch party” instead of typing in specific product names. These enhanced search results span across various categories, providing a streamlined and personalized shopping experience.
During a previous demonstration, Walmart also revealed its AI shopping assistant, which allows customers to interact with a chatbot while shopping for personalized product recommendations based on their preferences. The company is now expanding this technology to include generative AI-powered search capabilities. Customers can now request items for a “unicorn-themed birthday party” and receive product recommendations for unicorn-themed supplies or decorations. This feature is initially being rolled out for mobile devices on iOS.
Another promising application of AI is in the replenishment of frequently ordered items. Walmart is testing this capability through its Walmart InHome Replenishment program, which utilizes AI and existing replenishment expertise to automatically create online shopping carts for customers based on their regularly purchased items. These items are then delivered directly to the customer’s fridge using the smart lock-powered InHome delivery service. If successful, this technology could potentially be expanded to include the replenishment of other household items, similar to Amazon’s Subscribe-and-Save program.
Interestingly, Amazon has not yet utilized AI in a similar manner, utilizing it to improve or replace their Dash Replenishment service. However, the company is also tapping into the potential of AI in other areas, such as helping customers find the right products by summarizing reviews and highlighting key attributes, or aiding in finding clothes that fit.
Walmart is also introducing another new product at CES, known as “Shop with Friends”. This AR shopping tool allows customers to share virtual outfits they have created with their friends and receive feedback on their choices.
Doug McMillon described this array of new products as “adaptive retail” – personalized, flexible, and seamless retail experiences designed to enhance the customer experience. According to Suresh Kumar, Global CTO of Walmart Inc., this new form of retail goes beyond traditional omnichannel retail and creates a unified experience that combines the best aspects of all channels to better serve people.
Walmart also highlighted other uses of AI within the company. Its subsidiary, Sam’s Club, is utilizing AI and computer-vision technology to eliminate the need for receipt verification when exiting the store. This pilot program, currently in place at 10 locations, uses computer-vision technology to capture images of customers’ carts and AI to quickly match cart items to sales, confirming that customers have paid for their items. Walmart plans to expand this technology to all of its nearly 600 clubs by the end of the year.
In addition to this, Walmart’s generative AI tool for store associates, My Assistant, is being expanded to 11 countries outside of the U.S. by 2024. This tool, already available in several countries, helps employees with tasks such as writing, summarizing large documents, and offering “thought starters” to inspire creativity.
McMillon also addressed the potential implications of utilizing AI, stressing that Walmart’s priority is to use technology to serve people, rather than the other way around. However, he acknowledged that AI may result in the elimination or change of some jobs – particularly those that involve heavy labor or repetitive tasks. As a result, Walmart is investing in creating new roles for employees that are more enjoyable and often come with higher pay.
Aside from AI, Walmart is also looking to other new technologies to improve its services, such as faster delivery options. The company recently announced that it is expanding its drone delivery service in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metro to reach 1.8 million households, powered by Wing and Zipline. With over 75% of the items in a typical Walmart Supercenter fitting the weight and size requirements for drone delivery, the company has already completed over 20,000 drone deliveries in a two-year trial.
This story is developing…