How Walmart Is Preparing For The Future

Walmart has revealed new ways it will use AI to help you spend more money.

At CES 2024 (formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show), happening now in Las Vegas, companies from all over the world are showing off the innovations of the future. Among the reveals of smart picture frames and transparent TVs, retail behemoth Walmart has unveiled how it plans to use AI to make it easier for you to spend money.

Those new applications of AI include predicting when you've run out of certain products (paired with delivery people who will key into your house and put those items away for you) and new ways to search for items on Walmart's website or app. The company is also looking for ways to make the receipt-check stop on the way out of Sam's Club a thing of the past.

Walmart will predict which groceries you need, then put them in your fridge 

"Imagine never running out of milk again," wrote David Pierce of The Verge, describing Walmart's recently announced predictive AI program called InHome Replenishment. "You pour the last bit into your cereal—which is, incidentally, also empty now—and then head to work. By the time you get home the empties have been replaced as if by magic."

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It's not exactly your great-grandparents' version of the milk man, who dropped milk off outside the door at regular increments. Instead of delivering food regularly at scheduled times, something we can already do, Walmart intends to use AI to predict when you'll run out of something and send it over, using the company's InHome grocery delivery service, in which workers leave your groceries outside your home or, if you prefer, right in your fridge.

"InHome Replenishment will be an AI-powered feature that uses a personalized replenishment algorithm to anticipate needs and place orders delivered directly to our customers' pantry and fridge," says Walmart in its announcement this week. "The algorithm learns what customers purchase regularly, how much of these items they purchase and the frequency of those purchases. With that information, a customer's online shopping cart is filled with the right items at the appropriate time—like having a second 'you' that knows exactly what you need."

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Walmart’s AI will let you search for items by theme

Instead of searching for individual groceries or supplies you might need for, say, a party you're hosting, a new GenAI-powered feature on the Walmart app will give you suggestions, if you let it know what you're shopping for. For example, you might say, "Mermaid birthday party," and not only will birthday party decorations come up, but also foods, utensils, and other items you might need for that party.

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"GenAI-powered search is an enhanced search experience that elevates the shopping experience, allowing customers to search by specific use cases, generating more relevant and cross-category results," explains Walmart. "Essentially, with GenAI, a multistep process is simplified into one easy search."

This new way of searching is already available on iOS in the Walmart app.

You might not have to stop on the way out of Sam’s Club

At its warehouse store, Sam's Club, Walmart also announced that it's piloting a camera that will monitor the contents of shoppers' carts to verify purchases, rather than employing someone up front who stops shoppers to check receipts on their way out. Between Sam's Club's Scan & Go checkout system and this new feature, the shopping experience is edging closer to Amazon Go, which watches you as you shop and lets you walk out the door without paying (because you've already paid). The cameras are reportedly being piloted in 10 Sam's Club stores.

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Despite some people's concerns about privacy with such technologies, Walmart's innovations are likely to be welcome news to many, as the receipt check can create a bottleneck at the exit of the store sometimes. And greater convenience not only wins over more customers, but allows Walmart to process more transactions more quickly, leading to greater revenues.

In its statement, the company said it aims for these changes to gift time to its customers, and claims that despite these changes being AI-driven, Walmart is still thinking of its employees, too.

"At Walmart, our associates always have been and always will be at the heart of our progress, and we're excited about the ways we're leveraging technology dynamically to tread with purpose, aiming to simplify lives one innovation at a time."

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It's true that, so far, the company is still using people, not walking robots, to key in to people's homes and deliver the milk they didn't know they needed. At least for now.

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