Wal-Mart offers a peek at robot grocery pickers and other innovations

Wal-Mart offers a peek at robot grocery pickers and other innovations

Submitted by The City Wire Staff on Wed, 06/03/2015 - 6:39pm

story by Kim Souza

If there is a measure for how focused Wal-Mart is on using technology to dig deeper into the pockets of consumers, this may be it: 2,500 Wal-Mart employees at “labs” in California and Bentonville tests hundreds of innovations at any given time around the globe. Many of those tests geared toward improving the shopping experience for Millenials and other demographic disruptors.

Wal-Mart’s United Kingdom-based business ASDA just launched a fully-automated collection point for online grocery pickup for shoppers in the United Kingdom. It’s the first of its kind for Walmart ASDA given that it’s just a collection point for online orders that are picked at nearby stores and dropped off at the distribution hub within minutes of the customer’s desired pick up times.

Kieran Shanahan, vice president of grocery home shopping at Walmart Global eCommerce, demonstrated how the new pickup model works at a media session Wednesday (June 3) as part of Wal-Mart shareholders week in Bentonville.

He said shoppers start their orders online either by phone or desktop devices. They pay online and select a convenient pick up time. They notify ASDA by alert when they start toward the destination. They scan a QR code into the kiosk upon arrival and their order is dispensed with seconds. The frozen food is bagged separately and kept cold. Fresh food is bagged together at the correct temperatures.

Shanahan said the collection point is fully automated with robots that dispense the orders which are loaded by the drivers who bring the orders from the nearby stores. He said the launch was just a week ago and if the format proves successful it will be replicated.

Grocery pick up is being tested in five U.S. markets now by Wal-Mart and in all Sam’s Club. The team in San Bruno, Calif. – home of @WalmartLabs – has fashioned a more streamlined check-in process which Mobile Check. Eytan Daniyalzade of @WalmartLabs demonstrated this new feature. He said one thing they noticed with grocery pick-up was that the time spent waiting to retrieve their order could be shortened to improve the overall experience.

He said the frozen food many times is kept a long way from the pick-up station and it can’t be bagged early for food safety concerns. Daniyalzade said with Mobile Check-in the shopper notifies the retailer when he’s leaving for the store by selecting a prompt on the app. When he arrives in the parking lot he’s sent a message that his order is being picked. By the time he arrives at the pickup station the order should be there or within seconds.

“We are testing this now. When we nail this down on a service perspective it will be rolled out,” he said.

Wal-Mart is also working on geo-mapping its stores in the mobile application so shoppers who activate the instore mode while shopping can type in an item such as “toothpicks” and the map will show them the aisle and map the location out for easy retrieval, according to Justin Toupin of @WalmartLabs.

Geo-mapping is being tested in 10 stores, including Store 100 in Bentonville. He said the tech team is working with store operations to implement the store layouts more broadly. They are doing it without RFID, a spokesman said.

“The full store map serves like a personal shopping assistant,” Toupin said.

Wal-Mart also has worked on a responsive design to its website and mobile application that allows users more flexibility with screen display. The new design is now part of Walmart.com’s check-out page and will gradually be integrated throughout the site.
 
Lastly Sam’s Club gave reporters a glance at its “Data Cafe” which is a high tech center that crunches data from 100 different sources to help the clubs and stores with merchandising, tracking promotions, heading off logistics delays and other operational issues.

One application of the data gleaned is to track return trips and then tweak the promos sent to the club member that reflects items they will more likely choose rather than just generic and random offers. The retailer said this focused marketing approach is helping drive more sales from repeat shoppers.


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