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How Walmart Is Harnessing Technology to Create the Next-Gen Superstore
Walmart is the world’s largest company by revenue – netting approximately $485 billion, according to the Fortune Global 500 List. However, maintaining its position at the top means constantly looking for new and innovative ways to keep its store network ahead of the curve.
In 2016, this meant taking on the giants of the mobile payments world with their own bespoke Walmart Pay smartphone app. “The Walmart app was built to make shopping faster and easier,” said Neil Ashe, president and CEO of Walmart Global eCommerce. “Walmart Pay is the latest example – and a powerful addition – of how we are transforming the shopping experience by seamlessly connecting online, mobile and stores for the 140 million customers who shop with us weekly.”
Since its release, Walmart Pay was used for 45% of payments following the rollout, with 88% of the transactions coming from repeat users, with many citing the fact they know it’ll be accepted in-store as an advantage over other mobile payment options (such as Apple Pay and Android Pay).
(Image source: news.walmart.com)
As Walmart Pay’s popularity slowly increases, Walmart is now looking for other ways to leverage digital technology to empower their stores and employees to deliver first-class in-store customer service.
Scan & Go
Self-serve checkout and Scan & Go technology is nothing new and has been adopted by many supermarkets around the world. After initial resistance, consumers found they liked having the option to speed up their shopping by checking out their goods themselves. The next natural progression was to allow customers to scan their items as they take them from the shelves, allowing for an even faster checkout process.
Whilst maybe not suitable for high volume shopping trips, this functionality was ideal for modern consumers who are increasingly less likely to do a big monthly or weekly grocery shop, opting instead for buying food on a day-to-day basis.
(Image source: corporate.walmart.com)
With Amazon Go’s checkout free grocery stores poised to revolutionize the brick-and-mortar convenience shopping experience, Walmart wanted to pip them to the post, and make the Scan & Go process even more convenient. In the past, stores (Walmart included) have required customers to use a special device they collected on the way into the store to scan items they throw into their baskets. But now, Walmart has introduced the ability for customers to use their own smartphones for this purpose.
Combined with new digital scales, which enable quick and convenient weighing of loose produce, which are then simply added to the automatically-produced receipt on the device, the ability to Scan & Go using a smartphone is making an already rapid method of shopping even more convenient. With other retailers understandably nervous at the potential for Amazon Go to disrupt the brick-and-mortar grocery market, Walmart has created an elegant and (relatively) easy-to-replicate solution.
"The Scan & Go fast pass checkout lanes allow customers to bypass the traditional checkout process, which makes a quick trip faster than ever," said Jeff Muench, Sr. Director of Business Development at Walmart.
A revolutionary new way to manage in-store demonstrations, SmartLife allows Walmart to assist customers with their technology-related queries.
(Image source: blog.walmart.com)
SmartLife is essentially a large tablet computer built into a counter-top. With SmartLife technology, Walmart’s employees can demonstrate any number of digital products – from computers and smartphones, to baby monitors and digital thermostats.
Demonstrators can simply select the device the customer is interested in and the SmartLife counter essentially becomes that piece of technology. Customers can then see in super-size how the device works, and even have a go with it themselves – all without the risk of damaging traditional demo models.
SmartLife counters are regularly updated with new releases and software, so customers know they are getting an accurate view of the technology on offer.
Being tested in select stores, the endless aisle system aims to seamlessly integrate the in-store and online shopping experiences. A kiosk placed at the end of a physical aisle allows customers to access the online Walmart store. This means, if a customer comes into a store looking for a specific product only to find they are out of stock or don’t carry it, they can order the item there and then.
They can then arrange to either collect the item from the store, or have it delivered to their home. Not only does this reduce the number of customers feeling like they’ve made a wasted trip, but prevents them from going elsewhere.
Walmart is also using next-gen kiosks to make ordering meats and cheeses at the deli counter more convenient. Instead of queueing up and then waiting for their order, customers make their selection at a kiosk, which then produces a ticket with an estimated collection time. Customers can then continue with their shopping and quickly pop back to the deli to collect their items at the appropriate time.
Walmart is even using digital technology to change the way customers ask for help. New next-gen call buttons activate GPS-enabled devices worn by staff members, meaning, only employees who have training in the appropriate department will be called to that department when that button is pressed.
This prevents customers having to wander around the store looking for a random staff member, only to be told they aren’t trained in that department and the customer will have to wait while they go find someone who is. Customers can instead simply press the button and wait while the correct person comes to them.
It’s clear Walmart isn’t resting on its laurels waiting for the world to catch up. Innovators are constantly looking for new ways technology can be used to improve the in-store experience for customers.
The last word goes to Jeff Muench. “Meeting customers’ needs is critical as they adopt more digitally-driven lifestyles, expectations increase, and, increasingly, shopping options do not require a trip inside a store… By rethinking stores and testing new ideas with customers in real-life stores, we are improving customers’ experiences and making it easier than ever for them to get what they need as quickly and easily as possible.”