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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Life

#IShannanYou: The Associate Love Story That Has Netflix Viewers Swooning

It’s a classic love story: Boy meets girl, falls madly in love and proposes to her in front of millions on one of 2018’s most popular Netflix shows.

Okay, so that’s probably not how it happens for most of us. But, for William and Shannan Mahnken, it’s all part of their real-life love story that started five years ago after they met at a Walmart assistant store manager training session in Woodstock, Georgia.

The Netflix reality show reboot, “Queer Eye,” has taken pop culture by storm. The show’s “Fab Five” – Jonathan, Karamo, Tan, Antoni and Bobby – have won over viewers’ hearts across America by taking the show beyond its basic premise and diving into conversations about identity and self-confidence that inspire viewers and participants alike.

Before Shannan submitted William to be one of the makeover contestants on the show’s second season, the grocery department manager was a shy aspiring actor and screenwriter who named ’90s sitcom character Frasier Crane as his style icon. In his own words, “I was hiding behind my beard and all that hair.”

It’s not always easy to embrace your full self or wear your heart on your sleeve, but despite William’s reserved personality, he had a great time on set. “The guys are all so great,” William said. “They just walk up to you like they’ve been friends with you forever. I felt so comfortable.”

Bonding with the Fab Five even helped William feel comfortable enough to seek their help in planning his proposal to Shannan. He set to work with Karamo, the “Queer Eye” culture consultant, to craft a grand proposal that would sweep her off her feet.

“I was trying to think of a word that meant more than love,” said William, “and eventually I realized that there was no single word or phrase that could describe how I feel about Shannan. I decided that the only way I could describe it was with her name.”

That’s right. William invented a new way to say, “I love you” – and he did it using his future bride’s name. “I Shannan you.” If you haven’t seen the episode yet, I highly suggest grabbing a box of tissues beforehand.

Last month, William and Shannan finally tied the knot in a small sunrise ceremony on the beaches of Amelia Island in Florida. Since the show aired, the lovebirds say that although married life is a little different, the couple have stayed pretty true to who they are. They now work together as department managers at the same Walmart store in Cornelia, Georgia, and William continues to create short films and act when he can.

So, what was the biggest lesson he learned on the show?

“Confidence is a big one,” he said. “I learned how to open up to people. I don’t feel hidden anymore; I feel like I can open up to people about who I am. If I feel myself reverting back into that old pattern, I remember something that Tan said to me: ‘You’re not doing this for yourself, you’re doing it for her – the person you love.’ I think about that and it inspires me to be the best version of myself.”

Photos courtesy of Netflix.

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Innovation

My Journey From EE to IoT at Walmart’s DFW Tech Hub

Before I joined the team here, I had no idea how innovative a 50-year-old retail company could be.

Like most people, I had interacted with Walmart as a customer in stores and online but had never really thought about the systems and technology functioning behind the scenes to make the whole thing work.

As we officially open our new Walmart Technology satellite HQ in Plano, Texas, this week, I’m reflecting on my evolving, 20-year journey in tech — from building circuit boards to developing software to, now, exploring ways to apply advances in the internet of things (IoT), machine learning, object detection and other emerging technologies in the increasingly blended world of physical-digital retail.

Here’s a great example:

It might seem like a small thing, but spills are a big deal on the sales floor. So we developed a concept to help stores quickly detect spills, building a quick alert system that linked a camera with a Raspberry Pi and sensors that sent photos and data from the sales floor to the cloud. There, we deployed learning algorithms to analyze and build models that helped identify spills.

It wasn’t perfect – but it worked! And even though we won’t bring our prototype to life in stores at scale, we’re able to learn fast and apply those learnings to other projects — like using machine learning and IoT similar to our Raspberry Pi-based sensory concept to cut energy use and cost, all while keeping the temperature comfortable for associates and customers in our stores.

I’ve only been at Walmart four months, but it’s been a blast. I’m still blown away by the many different applications of emerging technology in something as simple as a retail store. But really, retail isn’t simple. It’s complex, the scale is insane and the industry is rapidly transforming. What an awesome time and place to experiment, innovate, fail fast and learn quickly.

It makes my brain happy, and I’m glad it’s happening here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

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Business

These Back-to-School Tools Add Up to Easier Shopping

Going back to school with confidence is as easy as 1, 2, 3 … 4.

Whether you’re shopping for a kindergartner or a college student, Walmart is making it easier than ever to get all the supplies you need in-store and online with a variety of new tools and products.

The best part: You don’t have to sacrifice style for convenience or saving money. Around 25% of our school supply assortment is new this year, and you’ll find these on-trend items offered at our everyday low prices.

Study the graphic below on some of the ways we can help you ace back-to-school shopping.


*Free two-day shipping is available on orders over $35 without a membership fee.

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Sustainability

This Bud’s for the Future of Our Planet

Over the years, the Budweiser logo has come to represent many things beyond just beer: the Budweiser frogs, the greeting “Wassup?” and, of course, the majestic Clydesdales. But soon you may be seeing a new Budweiser logo that symbolizes even more.

Anheuser-Busch, which first introduced Budweiser Lager Beer in 1876, is taking a serious look at how the way beer is produced can help make a difference for our planet.

To highlight its commitment, the company created a special “Brewed with 100% Renewable Electricity” logo that now appears on all Budweiser sold in the U.S. Just as iguanas Frank and Louie became popular mascots for the brand, the new logo will hopefully become a recognizable mark of social responsibility.

These efforts don’t end at the logo, however. The company took its ambitious sustainability goals and joined Walmart’s Project Gigaton, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our supply chain by 1 billion metric tons by 2030.

The brewer set its own goals that it hopes to meet by 2025. Its four areas of focus are:

  • Renewable electricity and carbon reduction
  • Water stewardship
  • Smart agriculture
  • Circular packaging

“Achieving ambitious goals requires cooperation from stakeholders across the board. When you add efforts from wholesalers, suppliers and consumers to those from companies like Walmart and Anheuser-Busch — companies who are committed to the cause — you’ve got a chance to make a real difference,” said Angie Slaughter, vice president of sustainability procurement at Anheuser-Busch, North America.

A major milestone was reached when the brewer announced a wind energy partnership with ENEL Green Power in 2017. Since January of this year, 50% of Anheuser-Busch’s purchased electricity has come from a wind farm at Thunder Ranch, Oklahoma. That’s enough renewable electricity to brew more than 20 billion 12-ounce servings of beer in the U.S. each year.

The Budweiser brand carries the flag for the renewable electricity goal pledged by the brewer. “When you consider the Budweiser beer volume in North America, we sell 15 million 12-ounce servings every day, and we have 15 million opportunities with each one to get customers involved in conversations over a beer,” Angie said of Budweiser’s consumers. “We also want to encourage other companies to be inspired to do more. The new symbol is available for other companies to show how they’re using renewable electricity in their brands.”

The wind farm hits on another shared interest between the brewery and Walmart: creating American jobs. Angie said the development of the farm is a 15-year project, and around 400 temporary jobs were created at the peak of construction. Some jobs will remain long term.

Anheuser-Busch itself is an American success story – one that began in 1860.

“We are proud to call the United States our home and are proud to continue to brew America’s best beers,” said Angel Beasley, manager of trade marketing supporting the Walmart business. “It makes sense especially to amplify our American heritage with Walmart’s Made in the USA program. In fact, 98% of the primary ingredients used in the beers Anheuser-Busch proudly brews are grown in the U.S.”

There are more than 18,000 employees nationwide. Budweiser’s production alone requires over 1,700 people, Angel said.

The next time you pass a Budweiser display in your local Walmart store or crack open a cold one, you’ll know that it’s more than an adult beverage – and that the company is doing more than coming up with clever commercials.

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