How Walmart Technology is Shaping the Shopping Experience

The largest company in the world by revenue, Walmart is using technology from Gen AI to AR and VR to provide customers with a better shopping experience

Since its first store was opened in Rogers, Arkansas in 1962, Walmart – the largest company in the world by revenue – has continually stayed ahead of the curve.

With approximately 240 million customers and members visiting approximately 10,500 stores and numerous ecommerce websites in 19 countries each week, in recent years the leading omnichannel retailer – which is also the largest private employer in the world with 2.2 million employees – has continued to develop innovative technology solutions as part of its ultimate mission to build a better world.

Here, we highlight some of the ways in which Walmart is using technology to provide a better shopping experience and help it meet the needs of customers globally.

Walmart using Gen AI to enhance experiences for customers and employees

With the retail sector continuing to rapidly evolve, customer expectations are changing. With McKinsey reporting that AI will create US$400-660bn in value for the retail and consumer goods industry, companies across the globe today are investing in ensuring they have a seamless digital presence.

AI is embedded across Walmart’s business, from how it personalises and improves experiences for customers, members and associates, to how it gets inventory through its supply chain and more. 

Together with its partner Microsoft, Walmart is further improving the digital shopping experience, building generative AI (Gen AI) into its search function to deliver customers a better browsing experience, using a combination of Walmart proprietary data and technology and large language models, including those available in Microsoft Azure OpenAI Service, as well as retail-specific models built by Walmart.

Walmart’s built in Gen AI-powered search function across iOS, Android and its own website is designed to understand the context of a customer’s query and generate personalised responses. This tool provides customers with a more interactive and conversational experience, enabling them to get answers to specific questions and receive personalised product suggestions.

In addition to using Gen AI tools to improve the customer experience, Walmart has recently expanded its Gen AI-powered associate tool to teams around the world.

My Assistant, the company says, has been built to help Walmart associates spend more time on the things that matter. Its associates in the US are already using the tool to get to first drafts faster, summarise large documents in seconds and spark creativity with thought starters on a variety of topics.

“Walmart is people-led and tech-powered, and we know that the best way to help our people reach their full potential is to provide the same intuitive, consumer grade experience we’ve built for our customers and members,” says Donna Morris, Walmart’s Chief People Officer. “We were early believers in the power of Gen AI as a tool for our associates. In fact, we took our first Gen AI-powered associate tool from vision to viable in about 60 days, thanks to the strong technology foundation we have put in place.”

Making drone deliveries a reality

Offering the largest drone delivery footprint of any retailer in the United States, Walmart first launched its drone delivery program with Zipline and DroneUp in Arkansas in 2021 before expanding it to more states in 2022. 

In 2023, Walmart partnered with Alphabet-owned Wing to deliver to 60,000 more homes in the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) area from two different stores. Today the company has completed over 20,000 successful drone deliveries.

Walmart offers the largest drone delivery footprint of any retailer in the United States. Pic: Walmart

Walmart announced recently that it now offers drone delivery for up to 75% of the DFW population, giving more customers than ever an even faster delivery option, getting items to them in 30 minutes or less and in some cases as little as 10 minutes.

Walmart’s drone deliveries are approved by the FAA to fly without a dedicated observer being able to see the drone at all times, known as Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS).

“Drone delivery is not just a concept of the future, it’s happening now and will soon be a reality for millions of additional Texans,” comments Prathibha Rajashekhar, SVP, Innovation & Automation at Walmart US.

Using AR & VR to help customers better visualise how products will look in real life

Walmart has increased investments in augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies in recent years to better assist customers in envisioning how fashion, beauty and home items would look virtually. 

With its Optical Virtual Try-On, customers will be able to virtually ‘try on’ frames and purchase prescription eyewear online. 

Walmart uses 3D data and advanced algorithms to create a digital twin of eyewear frames, resulting in a more realistic virtual try-on (VTO) experience. 

"As a company, our commitment is to provide our customers with a shopping experience that exceeds expectations – one that is easy, engaging and personalised,” says Tom Ward, EVP and Chief Ecommerce Officer of Walmart US. “With our latest addition, we are offering our customers yet another dimension of choice, meeting them exactly where they are in their shopping journey. This is a testament to our continuous efforts to redefine and elevate the shopping experience.”

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