Innovation

Movie Magic: Behind Vudu’s New Mobile Feature

Harry Potter flying on his broomstick during a Quidditch match. Julia Roberts fleeing the altar(s) in Runaway Bride. The Goonies going on a hunt for a pirate’s treasure.

When we think of these moments, we think about the stories, not necessarily how we were able to watch them.

I work at Vudu, which was built around the idea of giving customers easy access to their favorite television shows and movies. This was our core promise nearly a decade ago and remains our focus today.

Because we’re part of Walmart, the largest seller of DVDs and Blu-ray discs, we have a unique opportunity to help customers get even more out of their physical collections.

Today we announced that, beginning at 12:00 p.m. EDT, customers will be able to convert DVDs and Blu-rays into digital files through a simple scan with their phones.

This isn’t new for us. In fact, we first launched our Disc-to-Digital service five years ago to give movie lovers the ability to unlock digital files from their DVDs and Blu-rays. Since then, we’ve steadily evolved that service – and even added InstaWatch for new movies – to give customers simple and easy ways to get more from their physical discs while they also build their digital libraries.

Check out the journey we’ve taken over the last five years to help customers give their physical DVD and Blu-ray collections a second life as digital movies.

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Community

Virtual Construction That’s Helping to Build Real Jobs

At the beginning of 2016, Iowa Workforce Development and Hawkeye Community College in Cedar Falls came together to consider the statistic that just 2.3% of Iowa’s construction workers are women.

The construction industry has always been male dominated, but in a state where heavy equipment operators are not only in growing demand, but paid an average hourly wage of more than $23, they saw an opportunity.

Through its PROMISE JOBS program, Iowa Workforce Development works tirelessly to connect Iowans – many of them low-income women with families – with training services. Last year, Hawkeye Community College had a fleet of simulators specifically designed to put individuals behind the controls of a backhoe, bulldozer, excavator, wheel loader and other common construction equipment. And with a state grant from the Walmart Foundation, they had the funding they needed to mobilize.

From January through July 2016, the construction equipment simulator trailer made its way to all corners of the state, with stops at each of IowaWORKS’ 15 regional facilities. Anywhere from 150 to 500 Iowans turned out at each location to try their hand at the controls, gauges and equipment systems in a safe, in-cab environment, with supervision from trained instructors. In some instances, representatives from construction companies came out to connect with interested residents on the spot.

Like any industry, construction isn't for everyone. But this collaboration opened the door to the possibility of a new career path – and a better life – for Iowans. The demand for construction workers, regardless of gender, is high. So this collaboration addressed a genuine issue.

For many, it could mean a transition into higher-paying jobs, thus supporting their families and their futures. That’s a scenario where everyone wins.

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Innovation

A Look Inside Walmart's Next-Gen Test Stores

The world is navigating a cultural revolution into the digital age.

Meeting customers’ needs is critical as they adopt more digitally-driven lifestyles, expectations increase and increasingly shopping options do not require a trip inside a store.

With this in mind, Walmart is testing new approaches in two recently opened supercenters in Tomball, Texas, and Lake Nona, Florida. These stores were fully reimagined from a new layout to building and environmental enhancements to added technology that all improve the shopping experience.

Keep reading to learn more about these new retail environments. Or, if you’re in the area, drop by and look for yourself.

New Layout
We started with customer shopping behavior to reimagine the layout for these two stores. For example, services like the beauty salon and tech repair are adjacent to relevant merchandise. Health and wellness departments are consolidated to create a single destination. Baby, toys, kids' apparel and kids' shoes form a single destination to ease mom’s shopping journey.


Scan & Go
Speeding up checkout is critical to improving customer experience. So we’re testing Scan & Go technology that works both on personal smartphones and Walmart-provided handheld devices. Customers are greeted on their way into the store by a large bank of these Scan & Go wands, and new digital produce scales have been added to make scanning weighable items much easier. The Scan & Go fast pass checkout lanes allow customers to bypass the traditional checkout process, which makes a quick trip faster than ever.


SmartLife
New interactive projection technology allows customers to learn about connected devices (think Google Home, Apple TV, Nest, baby monitors and connected thermostats) and get answers to what is important to them. Since images are projected onto tables and walls, there’s no chance of accidentally damaging a product, and the product details can be updated more quickly through this new platform. This technology is found in the entertainment section of the store, as well as in hardware, baby, and health and wellness for relevant department items.


Integrated Pickup
Shoppers can use the outside drive-thru to pick up not just their weekly groceries, but also their prescriptions and Walmart.com orders.


Extended Aisles
Step into the Tomball Supercenter and you’ll find interactive screens offering access to an extended curated selection of online-only items in almost 100 categories. Customers can order products, pay with the rest of their basket at checkout and pick up two days later.


Appointment Setting and Ordering Technology
Need your deli order, fast? These stores test a new appointment and ordering kiosk system where you place your order, go shopping, then come back to quickly pick it up. If the initial test in the deli area goes well, it could be expanded to pharmacy, Auto Care Center, beauty salon or anywhere ordering and appointment setting occurs.


Next-Gen Call Buttons
Shoppers simply press a Wi-Fi-connected call button and wearable GPS-enabled devices alert associates that assistance is needed. Associates wearing these devices are trained in specific store areas and are on call to help in the furniture, paint, fabrics, sporting goods and bikes areas of the store.

So what’s the bottom line? By rethinking stores and testing new ideas with customers in real-life stores, we are improving customers’ experiences and making it easier than ever for them to get what they need as quickly and easily as possible.

Editor’s Note: You can learn more about Walmart’s in-store tests in this piece from Good Morning America.

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Community

Harvesting Hope and Relieving Hunger for a Military Community

Members of the U.S. military and their families are very special people who sacrifice everything to ensure our safety and freedoms are protected.

Sometimes those same people are sacrificing even more than they should – they’re worried about where their families’ next meals will come from.

Here at Harvest Hope Food Bank in Columbia, South Carolina, my job is to work with local governments and businesses to understand how we can best work together to serve those in need. Working here for over six years has given me a unique perspective on hunger and it’s allowed me to see a gap we can help fill to help our military community.

We have a large military presence in South Carolina. Our state is home to several military facilities, a number of veterans’ hospitals and one of the largest military populations in the country. We have over 50,000 active and reserve troops and over 400,000 veterans living or working in our state.

With that many military men and women living and working in South Carolina, and the fact that Harvest Hope serves 20 of the 46 counties in the state, it’s understandable that we might see a few on occasion. Everyone goes through difficult times, and sometimes you just need a little boost to get back on your feet. What troubled me was how many people with military ties we were actually serving – approximately 12% of the people we see each day.

My philosophy, as well as those who work with me, is there’s no reason anyone who puts their life on the line should ever need to stand in line for food. As someone who served nine years of active duty, it’s a cause near and dear to my heart. So I took action.

I found a study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office on the use of food assistance programs by active duty military. I saw that Feeding America had recently developed a partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to increase food access to veterans. Both of these backed up what I was seeing in my community and pushed me to find a more strategic way reach those men and women who’ve already sacrificed so much.

In 2016, with the support of our food bank’s leadership, we developed Operation Hunger Prevention (HP). This is Harvest Hope’s first large-scale campaign focused specifically on providing food relief to active duty military, veterans and their families. We were so excited when we received grant funding from the Walmart Foundation and Bank of America Foundation to help us get the pilot program up and running – and demonstrate further the actual need for these services. The best part? We could provide assistance to active military, veterans or their family members without any cost to them or the U.S Department of Defense.

This year, we were very fortunate to receive an additional $75,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation, and take Operation HP into a stage two pilot. It will allow us to expand the program out to county veterans affairs offices and ease the burden of having to search for additional funds and sponsors. Because of this funding, we’ll have more time to focus on helping our military community and their families. It will help us provide an estimated 375,000 additional meals.

I’m proud Operation HP is able to provide additional support for such an important part of our community – relieving stress and improving overall military readiness of our troops. These men, women, and families put a lot out there to protect our freedom and ask so little in return. This is just one small way of saying thank you.

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Opportunity

The Family Man Who Built a Better Future

Most days, Timothy Lumpkin rises well before the sun.

By dawn you’ll find him in the middle of a Florida-based Walmart distribution center leading his team in their morning stretching ritual before getting busy up-stacking cases as heavy as 50 pounds.

Timothy is no stranger to breaking a sweat before sunrise. On the dairy farm where he grew up working with his grandfather, clocking in at the crack of dawn was a part of life. From his grandfather, Timothy learned to value the tough-as-nails work ethic he’s known for at Walmart today. “My grandpa was the biggest inspiration in my life. He loved to work, so I had to pick up his rhythm.”

Timothy’s fondest childhood memories are of tending to his grandfather’s cows and, later, working in his junkyard where the pair spend countless hours tinkering under the hoods of old cars, taking apart transmissions and putting them back together.

Timothy never forgot his grandfather’s lessons, even when the odds seemed impossibly stacked against him. With no other family to rely on, Timothy worked to support himself through high school and graduated with honors. But after graduating, he had no place to go. “I was homeless. Literally, I had nowhere to go.”

That’s when he ran into an old friend who worked at Walmart. After speaking with him about the benefits and opportunity available, the friend convinced Timothy to send in an application. A week later, he was hired as a part-time associate in the deli. Timothy hit the ground running, immersing himself in his new position and volunteering to come in for extra shifts whenever possible. It didn’t take long before his trademark work ethic grabbed the attention of the department managers, and less than a year after he started, he was hired full time as an overnight stocker.

Looking back now, he’s come a long way. He has a career he loves and a beautiful home in which to raise his family. When it comes to the future, Timothy will be the first to say the hard work isn’t over. “Someday I want people to say, ‘Hey, that’s Timothy Lumpkin right there. He started with nothing and look, he made something out of it.’ All it takes is a little bit of willpower and you can do anything you want.”

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