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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Innovation

More Than a Store: The Tech Bringing You Even More Items

I can’t count how many times I’ve started to shop on my phone or in an app, then moved over to my laptop so I could see everything better.

Shopping on a phone is super convenient, but sometimes that small screen doesn’t give me the in-depth detail I need for certain types of purchases.

Turns out, a lot of customers do that, too. “Our electronics department associates noticed that customers were using store display laptops and tablets to purchase from Walmart.com,” Nicole Clendeninn, a senior project manager of merchant technology at Walmart Labs, recalled. Just like me, they wanted to use something bigger than a phone screen to shop. Others used the store displays because they didn’t have a smart device with them. From these simple observations, came an even simpler idea: Walmart.com in-store kiosks.

The solution launched in just five stores almost a year ago and has since grown to 50 locations. Each of these stores has 1-2 kiosks, usually near customer service or the electronics department. The kiosks allow customers to shop all products on Walmart.com (minus Marketplace items), pay how they want – even cash, if they like – and ship it to store or their home.

Nicole’s team didn’t stop there. They used this same technology to enable associates to help customers make online purchases from anywhere in the store. Associates already use a handheld device for their daily tasks, so Nicole’s team added a new app that allows them to assist customers with Walmart.com merchandise on the spot.

Let’s say you’re looking for a laptop. With this new app, an associate can pull up reviews on his or her handheld device so you can see which one has the best reviews. Once you’ve made your choice, that associate can check you out right there or take you to a kiosk to let you pay without a card. Same thing goes if you can’t find what you’re looking for in the store – they can help you find it online, show you the reviews and help you check out.

Not every store will get a kiosk, but the team is working to get the associate-facing app on all their handheld devices.

Watch this video to see how the kiosk came to life.

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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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Community

An Amazing Way to Add STEAM to Girls’ Career Dreams

It might just be that I am a mom of three children (ages 8, 4 and 2) who is always looking for fun yet affordable things to do, but I am noticing more and more hands-on learning opportunities such as “maker spaces” popping up in schools and institutions throughout the country.

Northwest Arkansas is no different. It's exciting to see so many STEAM – an acronym for science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics – concepts embodied in current popular culture, inspiring confidence in young women in particular.

Learning becomes deeper and longer lasting when it involves creativity, discovery and community. That’s why I’m so excited to help support Walmart and the Walmart Foundation in their giving efforts. Through my job as a senior grant manager for the Walmart Foundation, I get to be part of helping organizations like the Scott Family Amazeum, who are working to break down the intimidation factors of STEAM in hopes of inspiring the next generation of engineers, coders, scientists and beyond.

Just this last month, at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, Proctor & Gamble and Walmart joined the Amazeum and other local organizations to host the first Always Live #LikeAGirl STEAM Day for 100 young girls from the region, who were encouraged to explore STEAM careers.

But let me share a little bit more about the impact STEAM education is having on my own daughter, Kenzy. This past spring, like many children in Northwest Arkansas, she and her 2nd grade class attended an Amazeum Unfield Trip, which is a program supported by a $1 million grant over three years from the Walmart Foundation to fund admission for students in Benton and Washington counties.

This wasn’t your traditional school museum visit, but rather a hands-on learning experience for both the students and teachers, inspiring curiosity and discovery at every turn. Kenzy loved exploring the world of water at the Nature Valley Water Amazements, but being able to create something uniquely her own in the 3M Tinkering Hub renewed her interest in her school’s afterschool coding club. Who knows? It might have even ignited a lifelong interest in a STEAM career.

Innovation is all around us and sometimes it takes us slowing down to see it or be inspired by it. Watching my kids discover has encouraged me to incorporate more STEAM into my own lifelong learning. STEAM education develops life skills like logical reasoning, collaboration, creativity and communication while building character traits like confidence, self-esteem, imagination, persistence and motivation. These are the very life skills and character traits I am seeing my daughter develop through her interactions with STEAM education.

Without creativity, the world would be a lot less interesting, and without the curiosity to discover, we wouldn’t push ourselves a little more or strive for the impossible. In a world being transformed by innovation, I’m grateful for my kids who are a constant reminder for me to not be afraid to embrace my own creativity, be a little more willing to go down the journey of discovery but most importantly to foster community with those around me.

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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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