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Walmart to Create New Type of Tech-Based Commerce

World’s largest retailer shares plans for how technology will focus on customers, workforce and society
Marian Zboraj, Progressive Grocer
Walmart GenAI search
With GenAI-powered search, Walmart customers will have a more interactive and conversational experience, get answers to specific questions and receive personalized product suggestions.

During CES 2024 in Las Vegas this week, tech leader Walmart unveiled its plans to deliver a new type of commerce – one that is customer-centric, interconnected, frictionless and consistently exceeds expectations. 

The world’s largest retailer showcased how technologies like AI, GenAI and AR will reimagine Walmart’s role as a shopping destination to serving as a customer’s concierge, acting as their partner in achieving broader missions. 

[Read more: "EXCLUSIVE: At CES 2024, What Retailers Need to Know About AI"]

As CES, the tech leader revealed: 

  • A new GenAI-powered search experience is now available for iOS customers to ensure an intuitive 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, the new design serves up a curated list of the personalized items a shopper is looking for. The enhanced search experience allows customers to search by specific use cases, e.g., a football watch party versus individual searches for chips, wings, drinks and a 90-inch TV. It generates relevant, cross-category results.
  • A sneak peek into Walmart InHome Replenishment, which uses AI and Walmart’s decades of replenishment expertise to ensure customers’ online shopping carts are filled with the right items at the right time and delivered into a refrigerator in a kitchen or garage.
  • A beta social commerce platform called Shop with Friends that takes AR shopping to the next level by enabling customers to share the virtual outfits they create with friends and get feedback on their fashion finds.  

“While omnichannel retail has been around for decades, this new type of retail – adaptive retail – takes it a step further,” pointed out Suresh Kumar, global chief technology officer and chief development officer, Walmart Inc. “It’s retail that is not only e-commerce or in-store, but a single, unified retail experience that seamlessly blends the best aspects of all channels. And for Walmart, adaptive retail is rooted in a clear focus on people.”

With that in mind, Walmart banner Sam’s Club unveiled a new technology that aims to solve a key concern for its members – waiting in line for receipt verification when exiting the club. The technology uses a first-of-its-kind application of AI and computer vision technology to deliver new levels of convenience as members exit their club.

Walmart also announced another step in delivering items to customers in as soon as 30 minutes by expanding drone delivery to 1.8 million additional households in the Dallas Fort-Worth metroplex – 75% of the area. Of the 120,000 items in a Supercenter, 75% meet the size and weight requirements for drone delivery.

Ongoing Innovation 

Walmart also outlined how the technology it builds will benefit customers and members, its associate team and society.

Last August, the company launched a GenAI tool for U.S. and Canada campus-based associates called My Assistant. Walmart plans to expand this GenAI-powered tool to campus associates in 11 countries in the year ahead. Associates will be able to interact with My Assistant in their native language. From speeding up the drafting process, to serving as a creative partner, to summarizing large documents, Walmart says My Assistant is changing how associates work and solve problems.

Walmart also announced ambitious clean energy goals at CES.

By the end of 2030, the company aims is to advance its transition toward emissions-free energy by enabling up to 10 gigawatts of new clean energy projects into service on- and off-site – the equivalent of the annual power consumption of more than 2 million households. This will enable tens of thousands of U.S. households to save on their electricity bills.

In addition, the retailer is working to roll out an affordable fast-charging electric vehicle (EV) charging network across thousands of its stores and clubs in the United States. 

“We build technology to serve people and not the other way around,” said Doug McMillon, president and CEO, Walmart Inc. “Walmart’s purpose is to help people live better, and today, more than ever, advances in technology make it feel like anything is possible. Our technology roadmap is compelling and we’re very excited about it, but we’re clear that we are a people-led, tech-powered company. People, our customers and associates, come first and we’ll put technology to work to serve them better than ever.”

Each week, approximately 240 million customers and members visit Walmart’s approximately 10,500 stores and numerous e-commerce websites in 19 countries. The Bentonville, Ark.-based company employs approximately 2.1 million associates worldwide. Walmart U.S. is No. 1 on Progressive Grocer’s 2023 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. PG also named Walmart one of its Retailers of the Century.

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