Innovation

When Convenience and Technology Meet, Pickup Customers Win

There has never been a better time to be a customer.

With more options and access to products than ever before, we all have more control over when, how and where we shop.

This makes it an exciting time to work in retail, especially at Walmart. We’re listening to you and creating new ways for you to save both time and money.

One of the best examples of this is Walmart Pickup, the service that enables you to order items online and pick those items up in any Walmart store, completely free.

An easy, convenient option
Pickup is about serving you where you are. Ninety percent of Americans live within 10 miles of a Walmart store, and we serve more than 140 million customers a week, which gives us a unique opportunity to make every day a little easier for busy families.

Take online grocery pickup, which allows you to order groceries online, select a pickup time and have those groceries delivered to your car in minutes, all without having to leave the driver’s seat. This option is currently available in 600 stores, and we’ll be adding it to another 500 locations this year.

But Pickup goes beyond groceries – it’s also an option for shipping millions of items available on Walmart.com directly to your local store.

And starting on April 19, you will benefit from extra savings on many of the orders you place using Pickup – check out the recent news we shared for details.

We also offer Pickup Today, an incredible convenience for ordering items such as toys, office supplies and electronics, including video games. This same-day service has been so popular that we’ve tripled the number of items available for Pickup Today since last year.

Making Pickup even better
To make the in-store experience as simple and easy as possible, we’ve added additional staffing at our Pickup desks, including department managers in many of our stores – jobs that didn’t exist a few years ago. We’ve also developed new training programs and introduced mobile technology that simplifies how work gets done. This is leading to lower wait times and higher customer satisfaction.

This convenience is maximized by the Walmart app, which allows you to notify the store when you’re on your way, making sure your items are ready when you arrive. Or, if you’re in a store shopping for a specific item like an infant seat and see that your preferred color is available online, you can use the app to have it shipped directly to the store to pick up next time you shop.

Testing new things
As technology changes, so does how we shop. So we’re always exploring new ways to help you save time and money.

One of my personal favorites is our Pickup Tower. Much like a high-tech vending machine for your online orders, this feature in a few of our stores allows you to pick up items in less than a minute by scanning a bar code sent to your smartphone. The pilot phase has been so successful we’re expanding it to other locations across the country.

We’re also testing other pickup options and locations that quickly get items to you in ways that are most convenient.

Some of what we’re doing will make its way to all our stores; others we’ll simply learn from and use to develop the next great thing. The only guarantee is that we’ll let you tell us what works best. The future of shopping is ultimately up to you.

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Business

Why Smarter Inventory Means Better Customer Service

When you’re getting ready to head to Walmart, you expect everything on your list will be ready and waiting on our shelves.

With millions of items for sale, ensuring that happens – for everything, every time – is quite a complex process behind the scenes.

Managing back room inventory – products that are stored in back rooms for days, sometimes weeks, before they reach shelves – can be a challenge. It requires constant monitoring, and can sometimes take associates away from the sales floor where they would otherwise be helping customers. So recently we’ve been experimenting with new and better ways to improve the process for everyone.

Top Stock is one of these new systems that we’re testing in stores. With it, we’ve moved a great deal of our back stock inventory to somewhere else very simple: the top shelves on our sales floor. By keeping additional merchandise closer to where it’s sold, we can maintain fuller shelves while keeping a better in-the-moment read on inventory.

I spent the first 12 years of my three decades with Walmart in replenishment and supply chain roles, so I understand the significance firsthand of how this makes storage and stocking so much easier. But there’s also quite a bit more that directly benefits customers:

  • All the extra space we’re opening up in our back rooms is making it easier for us to integrate services like online grocery pickup. While the demand for grocery pickup is obvious, finding adequate space within our existing stores had sometimes been a challenge.
  • Need something you don’t immediately see on the shelf? Waiting for an associate to check our back room during peak holiday shopping periods could soon be a thing of the past. By improving our inventory management processes, we’re bringing the products and services that customers need one step closer. In fact, the implementation of Top Stock has helped reduce our rental of temporary inventory trailers to a small fraction of what it was just a few years ago.
  • Our improvements in inventory management are getting more associates out of the back room and onto the sales floor, where they can help and interact with customers.
  • Perhaps best of all, our associates can use open back room space for career-building education. When one store in Morrisville, North Carolina, implemented Top Stock inventory management, they reduced back room inventory by 75% in two months, allowing enough new space to open an Academy for associate training.

What’s worked for our business in the past isn’t always what’s best for today’s shopper. When we commit to coming up with unexpected ways to do the small things better, we not only become smarter and more efficient, but create a big win for our customers at the same time.

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Innovation

Uncovering How We’ll Shop in the Future

As new technology brings new possibilities, there’s been an explosion of ways to shop – smartphone apps, online grocery shopping and Scan & Go for easier checkout, to name just a few. To serve customers better, we need to stay ahead of the research that helps form the ideas that will continue to revolutionize how we shop.

I’m part of a small team that’s delving deep into research to improve the shopping experience for everyone. I’m a data scientist for Sam’s Club Technology, and I like to compare what we do to building a car: You have to start with the engine.

My day-to-day work is all about staying on top of new methods to build that engine. I look at ways we can incorporate emerging research in object recognition, detection and segmentation – technology that can make things like our Scan & Go app even smarter. For instance, instead of scanning a bar code, the app will be able to recognize products using photos taken by your phone’s camera.

Because this is such a fast-moving field, the research I work with is in its earliest stages. I might work with one algorithm today, and a couple months from now use a completely new model that’s even better than what we had before.

Tech is constantly evolving, which makes innovation essential for retailers. We have to continually adapt our business to our shoppers’ lifestyles. There’s a lot of coding, engineering and algorithm testing that goes into building something that works better than what people are used to. It’s challenging, but that’s why I’m lucky to work with such talented people.

Until I joined the team last year, I never realized the strong sense of pride that associates in the Walmart and Sam’s Club family have in what our business does. After studying at Yale, I worked in financial engineering in New York – I didn’t expect to find an opportunity to do such innovative work in Bentonville, Arkansas.

I’ve found that in the corporate world, it’s rare for a business to invest in cutting-edge research. But, from the start, Walmart has chosen to invent some of our own solutions instead of waiting for someone else to come up with them. In this new age of tech, we’re still evolving and inventing better ways to get from Point A to Point C.

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Innovation

5 Ways Walmart Uses Big Data to Help Customers

In many industries, big data provides a way for companies to gain a better understanding of their customers and make better business decisions.

Walmart relies on big data to get a real-time view of the workflow in the pharmacy, distribution centers and throughout our stores and e-commerce.

Check out the infographic below to see how Walmart uses big data to make the company’s operations more efficient and improve the lives of customers.

Whether it’s analyzing the transportation route for a supply chain or using data to optimize pricing, big data analytics will continue to be a key way for Walmart to enhance the customer experience.

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Business

Millennials Make Waves in This Episode of ‘Outside the Box’

Millennials are making waves.

They are now leaders of industry, business, media and retail. They are shaping the way we get information and goods. They can also be a bit controversial.

But whatever you think of them, you definitely can’t ignore them -- especially millennials as successful as Mic.com co-founder Chris Altchek and Natasha Case, co-founder of ice cream company Coolhaus. In Episode 4 of our podcast, Outside the Box, we sat down with them both to discuss their respective businesses, millennials and the stereotypes of that generation.

Chris, after years of taking wildly different political jobs, realized he was really passionate about finding solutions to people’s problems. So he decided to become a journalist – a job where he could come in without bias and help share the truth. Today, Chris manages a successful news site that reaches 60 million people – a lot of them millennials – a month, in an environment where he says trust in the news is at an all-time low.

Natasha, whose goal was to make architecture cool and accessible, found that mixing food and architecture did the trick. Starting with a broken-down food truck at Coachella, her business Coolhaus now sells architecture-themed ice cream at over 6,000 locations across the U.S.

As with any stereotype, it’s dangerous to lump everyone into one bucket. So what do Chris and Natasha think about the labels some have put upon their generation? Check out the episode to hear for yourself.

Listen to previous episodes and subscribe, and tell us what you think in the comments below.

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