Rapidly changing customer habits and the advent of digital transformation have led to a definite shift in retail tech innovation. In a post-COVID world, going digital (or rather, phygital) is second nature to big box retailers like Walmart, where the priority is to provide customers a frictionless (and also, contactless) experience.
Over the past few years, we made tremendous progress. We adapted the latest trends and have lived up to customer expectations while building an omnichannel retail ecosystem that drives an immersive shopping experience.
In fact, Walmart’s retail tech initiatives have always been about helping customers shop better. Here’s the big picture:
Same day delivery
60% of consumers expect same, next, or two-day delivery.
At Walmart, we strive to provide same-day delivery to our customers in select U.S. markets. This initiative facilitates the deliveries of groceries, household essentials, among other items from the stores to customers’ doorsteps the same day. Sometimes the deliveries are also made within an hour!
In the retail industry, last-mile delivery can make or break the customer experience. This is the reason why brands are accelerating their efforts with autonomous deliveries:
Ever since its launch, robotic delivery business Starship has carried out considerable amount of deliveries
Alphabet’s Wing drone delivery is slated to launch soon
Udelv is carrying out autonomous deliveries powered by machine learning-powered bots
Walmart has been trialing last-mile delivery vans via the Walmart GoLocal program – a new delivery service business. The program will dispatch workers from the Spark delivery network (crowd-sourced delivery platform that engages the services of independent drivers to complete deliveries) to merchants’ stores to pick up the items and deliver them to the customers.
The tech helps merchants select from a range of delivery types, including scheduled and unscheduled deliveries (including same-day delivery), and expand their delivery capacities and coverage based on customer requirements.
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Customers are becoming accustomed to completing their purchases based on their conveniences with 58% of customers favoring flexible blended shipping options like Buy Online Pickup in Store (BOPIS).
Walmart offers a curbside pickup option, which lets customers place an order online via a website or an app. They can schedule a specific time slot to pick up their goods at the curb or from a designated parking spot. Next, the purchases are loaded to their vehicle by a curbside customer service associate, with the transaction being completely contact-free.
Experience economy is the buzzword across industries. It is being leveraged by brands that use Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) in their campaigns.
Likewise, Sam’s Club is taking experiential shopping up a notch with Omni Optical. The end-to-end optical journey with an app-first/mobile-first strategy is an inventive solution, which helps its members choose the perfect prescription glass from the comfort of their homes.
Scan and Ship
Walmart’s members-only, in-app option – Scan & Go feature streamlines the shopping experience for customers, helping them reduce in-person contact.
Available through the premium Walmart+ program, it makes shopping easy and intuitive. Customers need to use the app, scan barcodes to accurately add various items to their carts.
In 2020, 9.6 million customers downloaded the Scan & Go app.
Sam’s Club’s Scan & Ship is a similar feature. It helps members get big-ticket items such as TVs, patio furniture, and playsets delivered to their doorsteps without worrying about organizing a pickup truck.
The result – a hassle-free, autonomous checkout process.
Walmart’s store redesign
Omnichannel customer experience is another emerging retail tech. A case in point is that of the use of unique Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) tech on iPhones to display key information to customers such as measurements, and helps them visualize interior design.
Similarly, Walmart’s store is an extension of our omnichannel customer experience. Three major highlights of the brick-and-mortar-store redesign include
Updated Walmart signage on exterior and interior of stores to reflect the Walmart app icon. The clean, colorful iconography creates an impression on the customer’s minds, encouraging them to download and use the app while shopping.
Aisles marked with letter and number combinations guide customers from phone to product.
Thoughtful and straightforward navigation inspired by airport wayfinding systems helps customers efficiently browse products in the stores.
The intent is to wow every customer as they shop at the stores, including powerful design elements to display unique products and drive value.
Inventory tracking robot
A Juniper Research study found that investments in Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the retail sector are growing with each passing year, so much so that global retail spending on the technology will reach $7.3 billion annually by 2022. Additionally, experts predict that AI-based solutions in retail will reach $20.05 billion by 2026.
Sam’s Club is using AI to elevate customer experience via a partnership with Brain Corp.
The latter will supply robotic floor cleaners powered by AI tech that’ll also offer autonomous navigation and data collection capabilities tied to a cloud-based reporting system.
For example, it’ll facilitate adding inventory scans to the robotic scrubbers. This, in turn, will simplify obtaining crucial inventory data such as product availability and placement and help associates save time while serving customers in the best possible manner.
Pick path optimization
During the picking process, the main reason for inefficiency is motion waste. It’s an unnecessary movement, which makes a task longer than it should take. Pick path optimization solves this bottleneck for retailers.
The pick-path optimization feature from Walmart type bunches orders together, creating a path for the associate to pick it up. This process helps them quickly report out-of-stock items in the system. We started the pick path optimization on a micro-scale for its storage data, using several data science technologies and building in-house algorithms that included plenty of analytics.
Needless to say, it has helped us increase our efficiency and customer satisfaction manifold.
Winning customers’ hearts
At Walmart, customer is at the heart of everything we do. We constantly churn out cutting-edge retail technology, which helps our associates deliver the best experience to the customers.
We understand that the NOW customer is always on and has different expectations, and that, they require rapid resolutions across touchpoints. Our omnichannel retail tech innovations help us reinvent their journeys end-to-end, making lives easier.
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