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How Tech Is Fueling Growth at Walmart

Walmart Global Technology's SVP/COO helps kicks off GroceryTech event
Marian Zboraj, Progressive Grocer
Walmart GroceryTech
Anshu Bhardwaj has a candid conversation about technology with Gina Acosta during GroceryTech.

Progressive Grocer kicked off its 2nd annual GroceryTech in Dallas with a keynote featuring Anshu Bhardwaj, SVP & COO, Walmart Global Tech & Walmart Commerce Technologies. Introduced by Mercatus, the session consisted of a candid conversation between Bhardwaj and Progressive Grocer Editor-in-Chief Gina Acosta about how the big-box retailer is continuously innovating across the enterprise.

“Technology is not just an enabler anymore. It's actually an innovator and a disruptor in helping you lead your competition, no matter what industry you're in,” said Bhardwaj. 

Walmart Commerce Technologies

Bhardwaj talked about Walmart’s efforts to commercialize its technology, specifically pointing to two products now available. The first one is called Store Assist. Store Assist is a fulfillment application that digitizes and optimizes store fulfillment processes. The app unlocks mobile-first fulfillment capabilities for retailers of all sizes to effectively help manage all their in-store, curbside, ship from store and last-mile delivery orders. Retailers are selecting Store Assist as their click and collect solution. 

Just rolled out a few months ago, Walmart’s second product is called Route Optimization. Walmart wanted to avoid the empty miles that trucks can drive and prevent trailers from being half full. Route Optimization uses advanced machine learning and AI to pack and then route the product so that it reaches its destination the fastest way possible as well as keeping costs under control. Plus, the solution helps reduce greenhouse emissions. 

“The reason we chose to bring these two product to the market is we knew that there was a need and we knew that there is a challenge that every retailer is seizing in those areas,” said Bhardwaj.

Ever Adopting

Earlier in the year at CES tech show, Walmart introduced the concept of adaptive retail

This concept entails “whether you want to shop online, whether you want to shop with your friends on social media, whether you want to go into a store and shop, … [or] have things delivered in your car,” Bhardwaj said. “Any which way you want to shop, based upon the context of what you’re doing at that point in time, is how you want to be sold. And that’s what we call adaptive retail: retail that is adapting to the needs of the customers versus boxing them in a channel-first approach.

“I do think that's where we try to differentiate ourselves and be there for the customer so that at any given point in time, whether you want your fridge stocked through InHome, or you want to do social shopping, we are there to enable you to shop the way you want,” she continued. 

Overall, however, Bhardwaj noted Walmart’s real edge lies in being uber-focused on what customers want and on how associates can deliver for their customers. 

Associate Power

For instance, Walmart is letting its employees experiment with GenAI. The Walmart GenAI Playground is a tool where employees can explore and learn about the new technology. GenAI can create new content and ideas, including conversations, stories, images, videos and music. It enables associates to explore GenAI’s capabilities without risk of data leakage and exposure, while using more realistic prompts for their job functions and having one place to compare and test different models.

GenAI is also allowing Walmart associates to better interact with shoppers. “We really, really believe that if you can power your associates to serve your customers, well, that combination is completely out of this world,” Bhardwaj said. 

For instance, there’s My Assistant. From speeding up the drafting process, to serving as a creative partner, to summarizing large documents, the tool is poised to change how associates work and solve problems. 

Trust is Paramount

There has been a lot of talk surrounding the ethics of AI. As a result, Walmart signed its Responsible AI Pledge last year. 

“Walmart has four core values: service, integrity, excellence and respect. When you talk about integrity, that's where I'll take a click down, which is where it intersects with the AI Pledge.”

The Pledge covers six key areas: transparency, security, privacy, fairness, accountability and customer-centricity. It will allow Walmart to continue experimenting with a variety of GenAI-powered experiences that have the potential to elevate its relationship with customers.

“I like to say that our technology is actually guided by our customers and our associates and the use cases they want us to use,” said Bhardwaj. “That's where we use tech.”

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