Life

Get Smart on These Options for Staying Connected to Home

Homes are getting smarter, and it’s my job to keep our customers and associates connected to the quickly-evolving technology.

My career with Walmart started six and a half years ago, and I’ve been the connectivity buyer since April of this year. I know firsthand how intimidating this category of products can be, but key trends are emerging that make home automation an easy choice.

Google Home and Nest are helping lead the way by being approachable and by showing how different products work together and independently. A couple of other popular items are the Arlo HD Security Camera and Philips Hue lighting, both of which are compatible with Google Home.

I’m not just the buyer – I’m also a customer. Before purchasing a Nest Learning Thermostat for my home, I had no idea how it all came together.

When most people think of a “connected home,” they think security. If you have kids, you want to know they got home from school okay. Or, if you’re like me, you might check in on your pets during the day. But today’s technology does so much more.

Systems like Nest allow you to manage your home’s thermostat remotely, which is environmentally friendly and may save you quite a bit of money on utility bills throughout the year.

And in addition to comfort, an automated home gives peace of mind. If a smoke detector is hooked up to the system and smoke is found, the system will immediately shut off the furnace or air conditioner. Most fires happen when those units malfunction and continue to run.

I love that these systems communicate with one another and alert you to possible danger. When a house sitter stayed at my home to watch my dogs, I got a text message that an unhealthy level of smoke was detected in the kitchen. The house sitter had burned bacon! Fortunately, no one was hurt and no damage was done, but imagine if it had been a real fire. Catching it early could mean the difference between cleaning up and losing everything you own.

It probably sounds shocking, but I’m not techy at all. I was thrilled to find that these automated systems are simpler to install than most smoke detectors. The Nest thermostat control only has a couple of wires you have to plug into the home’s existing system – it took me about five minutes to complete.

The only requirement is downloading an app to your Android or iOS device – smartphone, tablet or computer. The app will walk you through the install process and help you manage your home remotely.

The most important thing our customers and associates need to know is a great home Wi-Fi network has to be in place to support home automation. Make sure the router and Wi-Fi are set up correctly and that a strong signal is available. If you find you’re interested in learning more about these products, we also have a Home Automation website where you can take your time getting to know what’s available and what it can do for your home. The site is a work in progress, as this category changes rapidly.

Regardless of whether your home is old or new, it can be taught new tricks. Walmart will continue to be a resource for this new and innovative technology – and it makes what I do exciting.

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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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Life

Introducing ‘Outside the Box,’ a Podcast About Retail and All Things Related

No matter what kind of information you’re looking for, you can probably find a podcast that focuses on it.

From whales to Wales, from weather patterns to whether the latest movie is any good, they’re all topics that generate multiple search results in your favorite podcast app.

“Walmart” has many mentions there, too, but this week, you may notice that something new and different has appeared. We’re excited that this something is our new podcast – a series called Outside the Box.

With the topic of retail as a foundation, we’re focusing on conversations with some of the most brilliant thought leaders, innovators and visionaries working today. From the small things that make up shopping itself, to the bigger picture of how the retail industry plays in to society and the global economy.

Our first episode is about sustainability, and we’re excited to launch with some amazing guests, including Carter Roberts, CEO of World Wildlife Fund, Matt Knott, CEO of Feeding America and Ken Sullivan, CEO of Smithfield Foods. Future episodes of Outside the Box will touch on subjects like:

  • The Workforce of the Future. Where industry experts dissect the issues that will face employees in the coming years.
  • From Gen X to Millennials and now Gen Z. First Millennials overtook Gen X and now Gen Z is overtaking them, once again changing the world as we know it.
  • Technology. We’ll host a handful of industry insiders who can let us in on some of the more interesting and surprising applications of retail tech.
  • U.S. Manufacturing. We’ll talk to a business analyst, a merchandise supplier, and a government official about the challenges and benefits of making products in the United States.

If you’re a business owner or an entrepreneur, this podcast is for you. If you’re a maker, a consumer, a doer – in short, everyone! – this podcast is for you.

Learn more about the series and subscribe here, and tell us what you think in the comments below.

“What is Sustainability?” – the first episode of Outside the Box, was recorded in the Walmart Radio studio at our home office in Bentonville, Arkansas. Most other days, this studio is home to Walmart Radio DJs Bo and Antonio who host the Walmart Radio Show, which airs daily in our stores across the country.

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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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