Retail is changing and while for years many shoppers looked at offline and online shopping separately, the last few years has seen a convergence of both.
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Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, Target, and hundreds of other larger retailers from both sides of the retail industry have developed innovations and strategies to give consumers more options.
From buy online and pick up locally to cashierless checkout, technology and innovation is driving retail.
Walmart took at look at their innovations from 2018 and compiled an impressive list of technologies that make shopping and working at Walmart easier for customers and associates alike.
Some of these advances also benefit Walmart.com marketplace sellers as they make it easier for customers to purchase marketplace products in-store or return items to the seller.
Grocery Pickup and Grocery Delivery
From moms to college students, everyone who uses grocery pickup loves the way it combines the convenience of online shopping with the ease of never leaving the car.
The best part? It’s all at no additional cost at Walmart and offered at over 2,146 stores with more coming in 2019.
The company also launched a new grocery delivery service to more than 35 cities across the country, partnering with third-party delivery teams to bring online orders right to customers’ doorsteps.
Simply build a basket at Walmart.com/grocery or via their mobile app, choose a convenient pickup or delivery location, and let Walmart do the rest.
Walmart Pickup Towers
In less than a minute, 16-foot Walmart Pickup Towers deliver millions of items from Walmart.com to a local Walmart store (without the cost of shipping).
It’s a high-tech “vending machine” available over 1,211 stores and more coming in 2019. The company says “it’s a fun, fast new way to shop for customers all over the US.”
Check Out with Me
Most people want to skip the checkout line? Across the nation, Walmart offers their new Check Out With Me service that allows customers to do just that.
Outfitted with cellular devices and Bluetooth printers, associates complete the checkout process from anywhere on the sales floor, and provide a receipt via print, text or email.
Dotcom Store App
Shoppers never have to leave a store without getting what their need thanks to the new Dotcom Store app.
Using their handheld devices, this technology gives associates the power to help customers shop Walmart.com if the item they’re looking for is out of stock.
Customers can pay at any register in-store using any payment method they want (cash, check, credit/debit and Walmart Pay).
This first-of-its-kind technology being installed in Walmart’s Salem, New Hampshire store was designed and created especially for Walmart.
By automating key pieces of the Grocery Pickup process, it helps associates prep online orders even faster by using autonomous mobile carts to deliver the items they need from storage to organize, assemble and deliver the order to the customer‘s vehicle.
Autonomous Shelf Scanner
In 47 stores across the US, automated shelf scanners are giving associates more time to focus on serving their customers.
They’re programmed to help identify where in-stock levels are low, prices are wrong or labels are missing – which in turn provides associates with a real-time view of store inventory, helping them quickly identify the areas of the store that need the most attention.
Information is power, and thanks to Walmart’s new suite of handheld apps, the company has been able to place critical information directly into the hands of associates helping customers every day.
Whether they’re using store data to make efficient updates through the Price Change App or checking the availability of a customer’s item through the Availability App, associates now have new tools that enable them to do the best job possible, right in their pockets.
Two years ago, virtual reality technology transformed the way associates in at the Walmart Academies trained for new jobs.
In 2018, the company announced that associates in every Walmart store in the country will have access to training via immersive, virtual reality technology by the end of the fiscal year.
The Walmart app now features a store map uniquely created for each Walmart store, helping customers quickly and easily find everything from the hottest toys to everyday essentials.
Customers just open the app in the store or at home and search for the item. The map will show the item’s exact location, and new in-store signing helps customers quickly orient themselves within the store.
Third-Party Returns in Store
Customers returning items sold by third-party sellers on Walmart.com can drop off what they want to return at Walmart instead of having to coordinate directly with the seller.
All they have to do is package the product they would like to return at home and bring it to the store where an associate will help print the return label and send the item back to the seller.
The process of unloading products as they arrive in stores has seen little innovation over the last 20 years.
The FAST system is testing in 300 locations to automatically scan and sort items coming off trucks based on priority and department. This means associates spend less time unloading in the back room and more time on the sales floor with customers.
There is not doubt that Amazon’s success has driven Walmart to become a better retailer. The company appeared a bit stuck in physical retail and didn’t take eCommerce seriously for many years.
After acquiring Jet.com, it seems Walmart has woken up and is trying to narrow the online gap to Amazon. But it is also using new technologies to improve shopping and operations in their stores.
While there is no hint of Amazon Big Box stores that would rival Walmart stores, Amazon is working on building a larger physical presence with Whole Foods Market, Mall Kiosks, Amazon Go stores, and other retail partnerships.
Competition is good and both companies are trying to push retail innovation and that can only benefit consumers. But this may also change consumer expectations that at times are difficult to meet for smaller online merchants.
What do you think about Walmart’s technology innovations in 2018? Please use the comments section below or head over to our Facebook Group for Small Business Sellers and interact with other small business owners.
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