By Bobby Carlton
The future of retail and commerce requires bold vision, dedication to purpose, and a strong collaboration. That is what the Global Tech and Walmart teams have been working on as they explore ways to create new experiences that will enhance the way customers interact with the company.
In 2017, Walmart launched a voice shopping experience that would take advantage of the rise of smart devices such as mobile devices and smart speakers. Walmart also launched a beta version of Text to Shop, which basically looked at how we communicated through texting.
Along with the customer experience, Walmart looked at how VR training would impact their employees. In one case, a Walmart employee credited the company’s VR training to saving their life during an actual active shooter situation.
The company also saw how VR could help the customer experience.
“The great thing about VR is its ability to make learning experiential,” said Andy Trainor, Walmart’s senior director of Walmart U.S. Academies. “When you watch a module through the headset, your brain feels like you actually experienced a situation. We’ve also seen that VR training boosts confidence and retention while improving test scores 10 to 15 percent – even those associates who simply watched others experience the training saw the same retention boosts.”
In Q1 of 2022, Walmart introduced a new virtual try-on feature for women's apparel that allows users to test out different clothing and upload full-body images. It also launched a "Choose Your Own Model" function that lets shoppers see how apparel would look on models who look similar to them. The retailer also expanded its gift registry and Spanish language search options.
The company also launched two virtual worlds to help them connect better with their younger and more digitally connected shoppers who use popular gaming platforms like Roblox. ”We’re showing up in a big way – creating community, content, entertainment and games through the launch of Walmart Land and Walmart’s Universe of Play,” said William White, chief marketing officer, Walmart U.S. “Roblox is one of the fastest growing and largest platforms in the metaverse, and we know our customers are spending loads of time there. So, we’re focusing on creating new and innovative experiences that excite them, something we’re already doing in the communities where they live, and now, the virtual worlds where they play.”
In the grocery space, Walmart has been testing the use of shoppable content in its online stores. This feature allows readers to easily find and buy ingredients from various sites, such as Allrecipes and Tasty and turns it into a social media type of experience. Of course, like most social media platforms, AR could play a role in that interactivity.
The rise of smart devices and the increasing popularity of connected speakers have drastically changed how people interact with brands. They have also led to the development of more effective and simple conversational commerce platforms. For Walmart, they knew that technology was a great opportunity to create new experiences that would make shopping with Walmart easier.
Walmart started by establishing a Conversational Commerce company within Store No8, which is the company's incubation arm. The goal of this venture was to develop text and voice shopping capabilities that would help customers save time and make shopping more effortless, and also explore things such as digital twinning along with AR and VR technology. Through their approach, they designed Walmart's shopping experiences to meet the needs of customers wherever they are, and they can communicate naturally through their preferred devices.
The team focused on developing voice-based commerce capabilities, conducting research that revealed the preferences of customers when it comes to using voice capabilities. For instance, if you were making pasta for dinner, you might want to ask your smart device or speaker to add more sauce to your cart just by saying "Add more pasta sauce."
They also worked with their customers to develop voice shopping scenarios that would make shopping more effortless. For instance, if you have a full cart, you can schedule your grocery delivery or pickup right from your voice shopping experience.
The development of voice shopping capabilities for Walmart requires collaboration between various groups such as software engineering, product management, data science, and conversational design. To ensure that we are creating the best possible experience for our customers, we have been working with experts from different areas.
Through a partnership with Global Tech, which is part of Walmart's organization, they were able to create a unique voice shopping experience that was designed to meet the needs of our customers. Through the development of this platform, the company was able to expand the availability of voice shopping to all of our customers.
Walmart also developed partnerships with Google and Apple, where they were able to create a shopping experience that was designed to meet the needs of our customers using smart phones by expanding the availability of voice shopping on both platforms.
In 2018, Store No8 introduced Jet Black, which was its first portfolio company. It was a text-based shopping experience that was designed to help New York City-based customers find products from various retailers. During that time, the evolution of text-based experiences was happening fast. In 2020, the company decided to apply the lessons learned from Jet Black to develop a new text shopping capability for Walmart customers.
Walmart's conversational commerce team started working on Text to Shop, which would allow customers to shop and schedule their grocery delivery or pickup from their local supercenter using Apple Business and RCS messaging capabilities.
The rapid development of Text to Shop was made possible thanks to the collaboration between Global Tech and Store No8. The teams' work style and the shared mission were also instrumental in helping Walmart create the best possible experience for their customers.
Currently Walmart is running a public beta of the platform, and you can learn more about it by visiting texttoshop.walmart.com.
What is interesting is that Walmart is still working on the next generation of conversational commerce at Walmart, and they are dedicated to developing innovative shopping experiences that will help customers shop seamlessly.