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Walmart Paves the Way for Ethical AI in Retail

National retailer introduces 6 commitments to using artificial intelligence responsibly
Marian Zboraj, Progressive Grocer
Inventory Scan Brain Corp
Walmart-owned Sam’s Club employs Autonomous Scrubbers that use AI to give item insights like availability.

National retailer Walmart aims to set the bar for ethical artificial intelligence by introducing its Walmart Responsible AI pledge.

AI is embedded across Walmarts business, from how it personalizes and improves experiences for customers, members and associates to how it gets inventory through the supply chain, and more.

“As the pace of innovation increases and more sophisticated AI models are integrated into our business, it’s important those we serve feel confident and comfortable with the ways we use technology,” wrote Nuala O’Connor, SVP and chief counsel, digital citizenship at Walmart, in a recent blog post.

[Read more: "Grocers Can Demonstrate Using AI for Good"]

The Walmart Responsible AI Pledge is centered on six commitments that highlight how customers, members and associates can expect the major retailer to use AI responsibly, and throughout all phases of AI technology:

  1. Transparency: Walmart commits to helping customers, members and associates understand how data and technology, including AI, are being used by the company and what its goals are as it uses it. 
  2. Security: The retailer will use advanced security measures to protect customers’ data. Walmart commits to continuously reviewing security practices aimed at mitigating current and emerging threats.
  3. Privacy: Walmart commits to evaluating AI systems so that the sensitive or confidential information it stores is used in ways that protect privacy.
  4. Fairness: The company will evaluate AI tools for bias that have the potential to affect the lives of its customers, members and associates. It seeks to mitigate bias and commit to regular evaluations.
  5. Accountability: Walmart will use AI managed by people. It commits to holding ourselves accountable for its impact.
  6. Customer-centricity: The retailer will measure customer satisfaction with AI interactions and listen to feedback. It commits to continual reviews of our AI tools to ensure the technology is accurate, relevant and helping those we serve live better.

“The Walmart Responsible AI Pledge is about more than just AI. It is a moment in time for us to speak directly to our customers, members and associates; be transparent and address the concerns they may have with the rapid pace of technological innovation; and reinforce our commitment to using technology in ways that are safe and beneficial to them,” wrote O’Connor. “And by leading in this space, we hope to pave the way for adoption of ethical AI in retail.”

Walmart recently shared some of its latest tech updates in a post penned by several of its other product, tech and commerce leaders, underlining the positive benefits of AI on the customer shopping experience. “We believe that generative AI (GenAI), a type of artificial intelligence that can generate text, images or other media from the data it’s trained on, can help Walmart customers spend more time doing the things they enjoy and less time scrolling, tapping and searching. That’s why we’re experimenting with a variety of GenAI-powered experiences that have the potential to elevate our relationship with customers from a shopping destination to a partner in accomplishing broader missions,” they wrote.

The company is also empowering its associates through GenAI. To help increase productivity and unlock transformation for its campus associates in the United States, Walmart launched a generative AI-powered feature dubbed My Assistant. The desktop and mobile app experience can speed up the drafting process, serve as a creative partner, summarize large documents, and much more.

Each week, approximately 230 million customers and members visit Walmart’s more than 10,500 stores and numerous e-commerce websites under 46 banners in 24 countries. The Bentonville, Ark.-based company employs approximately 2.3 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, while its Sam’s Club division is No. 8. PG also named Walmart one of its Retailers of the Century.

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