AI and IoT in retail

Walmart Using IoT and AI to Usher in Future of Retail

Walmart is the undisputed king of retail for decades. The recent years have ­­witnessed meteoric rise of primarily online retailers such as Amazon and Alibaba that have challenged Walmart. While Walmart with its 11,000 brick-and-mortar stores has an almost-unbeatable offline presence, it’s not resting on its laurels. Not only is Walmart pushing its online presence aggressively, it is also leveraging technology to offer customer best of both worlds, offline and online.

Early Adopter of Technology

Walmart uses bleeding-edge technology such as AI, machine learning, Big Data, and IoT to maximize efficiency and keep customers happy. With its early adoption of technologies and tech research and development pursuits, Walmart is among the topmost patent filers. Walmart has a tech incubator by the name of Store No. 8 deeply involved in developing solutions based on AI, robotics, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). Through its research or partnership with companies, it aims to develop retail tech for increased sales and happier customer experience.

Making Operations More Efficient at Stores

Walmart uses facial recognition and behavioral analysis technologies to analyze customers’ behavior while shopping or waiting in payment lines. These technologies help assess if customers are getting frustrated or need help; if that’s the case, it could rush personnel to assist shoppers and ensure situations are always under control.

Combining the Best of Offline-Online World

With burgeoning growth of online retail, everyone’s wondering what could be the next best thing in retail. Many believe it is going to be combining the online world with the offline. Amazon is keenly pursuing it with Amazon Go. However, it is Walmart, which has taken a lead in offering the best of both worlds.

At some of its stores, Walmart recently launched what are known as Pick-up Towers. Here’s how it works. Customer buys something online at Walmart, then she goes to the nearby offline store with these Pick-up Towers. Right at the entrance of the store, she scans her online purchase receipt at a Pick-up Tower, and kaboom! Within 45 seconds, her product appears on a conveyer belt. Customers have given this a big thumbs-up over the traditional pickup method.

Further, for customers buying pharmacy or using Money Services, they can simply skip the line to pay. To start with, they can use the Walmart app and prefill their necessary paperwork on the phone. Subsequently, they go to a store, scan the code displayed, pick their order, and simply leave. All the payments are handled by the app.

Using IoT to Transform the Way Customers Shop

While combining offline and online retail world sure seems exciting, IoT is set to bring paradigm shift to retail. The basic play here is embedding IoT tags/sensors within the products. The tags can then monitor every aspect of the product: the purchase date, how often and what times of the day or night customer uses the product, possibly locate the fault in the product, monitor expiry dates, interact with other IoT-enabled devices, and so on. It can interact with other products using technologies such as Bluetooth, RFID, and radio frequencies, and similar other technologies.

Collecting such a vast amount of information would enable Walmart with immense possibilities. It could use this data for targeted advertising and cross-sell opportunities or alarm customers about expiry dates. Based on past shopping trends and current data, it could also help create a list of items to order; the customer might need to just tinker the shopping list a bit.

Driver by technological innovations, the world of retail is witnessing exciting times. An early adopter of technology, Walmart is ensuring it maintains its leadership position in Retail, delighting its customers.

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