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

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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Life

In Case You Missed It: Our Favorite Stories from 2017

Last year, our news feeds were full of big moments.

In case you missed some of Walmart’s major events, we rounded up our Top 10 favorite stories of 2017 – from the impressive, to the heartbreaking, to the downright adorable.

Our Family Got Bigger and Better
It’s always a happy moment when a family grows. This year, we added exciting companies to our team like ModCloth, Bonobos, Shoes.com and Parcel. We also partnered with tech innovators like August Home, Google, Uber and Lord & Taylor, proving that when we strengthen our business in the right places, our customers win.

A Podcast About Retail (And All Things Related)
These days, you can find a podcast for just about anything. From whales to Wales, from weather patterns to whether the latest movie is any good, you can probably find it all in your favorite podcast app. In May, we launched a podcast of our own called Outside the Box where we brought together thought leaders and innovators of all backgrounds to talk about the ways they’re transforming technology, shopping and everything in between.

Virtual Reality – and a Few Cues From Football – Helped Train Our People
Inspiration can come from surprising places. With the same technology used by some major football teams, we started incorporating virtual reality training into our Academy programs across the country. It’s just one of the many ways Walmart Academies use tech to set up associates for success.

This 5-Year-Old Associate Stole Our Hearts
What do you call a preschooler who does an art project on working at Walmart? Our newest associate! Well, at least for a day. When 5-year-old Will Coffman’s dad shared an adorable picture on Twitter, a local store manager invited him in to help out (and try out the job).

We Made Great Value… an Even Better Value
Premium Ice cream, sustainable coffee and salon-quality hairspray all at everyday low prices? We made it happen. In 2017, we highlighted some private label products that go above and beyond in providing our customers an amazing value. Be sure to check them out, you may be surprised!

This Short Story Revealed a Much Bigger Impact
A lot goes on behind the scenes in this big retail business. Aside from bringing customers their favorite products at a great value, we work to make a difference year-round for people, communities and the environment. This year we had Walmart home office associate Kyle Jones break down the lengthy report for us. He did such a great job we wondered why we never thought of it before!

#MadeInUSA Helped Create Jobs Across the Country
In 2013, we announced a commitment to source an additional $250 billion in products made, assembled or grown in the U.S. From an eyeglass factory in Brooklyn to an inventor’s home factory in Opdyke, Illinois, we took 2017 to highlight suppliers that are creating change for American workers.

Shopping Got a Major Tech Upgrade
The world is navigating a cultural revolution into the digital age, and last year was a big year for tech in retail. Last year, our Online Grocery Pickup continued to grow as a customer favorite, and we opened new stores with some pretty exciting features. What’s more, our incubation arm Store No 8 moved like a startup to test better ways to shop.

Associates Came Together to Help Those in Need
After natural disasters destroyed homes across the U.S., we witnessed communities and associates come together in times of need. From Hurricane Harvey to Hurricane Maria, from earthquakes in Mexico to wildfires in California, we were proud to see Walmart associates use their unique skill sets to help those affected get back on their feet.

We Started With #HelloMyNameIs
Every year, our Shareholders meeting brings together exceptional associates from around the world. It’s always inspiring to see what our international co-workers are up to, but last June we heard a powerful story from an Asda associate who’s carrying on his late wife’s legacy, and we just had to share it.

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Innovation

Hundreds More High-Tech Pickup Towers are Headed Your Way

You know how handy vending machines can be when you’re craving a snack or a drink. But have you ever imagined a giant vending machine that could help you get your online orders faster and save you money on shipping?

It may sound like a high-tech dream, but these machines, known as Pickup Towers, became a reality in nearly 200 of our stores over the last year. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. In fact, more than half a million orders have been retrieved through the towers since we first introduced them.

Because of this success, we’re rapidly expanding this pickup program by adding more than 500 additional Pickup Towers to stores across the country, bringing the total to more than 700 by the end of the year. With this expansion, Pickup Towers will be available to nearly 40% of the U.S. population.

Our customers have been clear: They love the Pickup Tower. But, they also told us they wanted the ability to retrieve larger items the same way. That’s why every new Pickup Tower will come with Pickup Lockers, making it just as easy to pick up that new TV as it is to pick up a new baseball glove.

But why stop there? We’ve launched all kinds of innovative services for busy families, including Online Grocery Pickup, Pickup Discount, Mobile Express Scan & Go, our growing grocery delivery service and a new partnership with Google Express. We’re even testing additional concepts, similar to the Pickup Tower, that could make picking up your online order even better in the future.

As we continue to innovate, we’ll keep listening to our associates and customers to improve the Walmart experience – and who knows? – maybe next time you’re in a Walmart store you’ll be greeted by the newest way to save time and money.

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Community

This School-Run Garden is Helping Nourish an Arizona Community

Moencopi Day School in Tuba City, Arizona, has offered a garden learning program for over 10 years. But it was just last spring that student-grown produce first appeared on this elementary school’s cafeteria lunch line—a Hopi Nation first.

That special lunch was important for Moencopi Day School. For the fifth graders who made it happen, the impact came over months of learning and preparation. Guided by Steven Lomadafkie, a science and environmental educator at the school, and two AmeriCorps service members recruited and trained by FoodCorps, an organization connecting kids to healthier foods and the natural world, the students planted and tended lettuce, gaining skills and pride in the resulting harvest.

Through washing the greens and planning a school-wide party, the students built a connection with cafeteria staff—who saw the infectious enthusiasm kids could have for a vegetable. By modeling positive eating behaviors, these fifth graders became healthy food champions, spreading the joy of good nutrition to their peers. It’s the sum of these ongoing, school-wide experiences that shapes children’s eating habits and their lifelong benefits.

A belief in hands-on learning is something that Moencopi Day School is embracing in its second year of partnership with FoodCorps and local nonprofit Moenkopi Developers Corporation. This year’s FoodCorps service member, Curt Cebula, is building on last year’s progress, expanding greenhouse lessons to all grades and increasing the frequency of taste tests. “The kids love him,” Steven says of Curt. “Sometimes he’ll get 10 hugs before a class starts.”

Curt says he sees once-reluctant students now open to trying new foods—especially when they’ve had a hand in making them. Some parents have even told Steven their kids have asked to start a garden at home.

Moencopi’s parent liaison, Trinity Honahnie, says Curt has been instrumental in engaging the community, another critical ingredient in the FoodCorps recipe. His support of a new school-wide take-home meal kit program, featuring traditional Hopi foods and recipes, has helped parents connect with what’s happening at school while reinforcing healthy habits at home. A taste test he led at a parent-teacher conference sparked a new energy.

“It was just a turnaround overnight,” Trinity says. “Curt has really brought some light to our greenhouse program.”

Principals, teachers, and parents understand that this type of positive change is important. FoodCorps strives to make its program effective, accessible and relevant to all schools. This year it introduced a new series of elementary school hands-on food lessons, each tied to national academic standards, which teachers can adapt and weave into classroom lessons. Thanks to support from funders like the Walmart Foundation, this year FoodCorps will reach 160,000 kids around the country.

At the end of the day, FoodCorps serves to make it easier for schools to do what they do best: give students the nourishment they need, in body and mind, to thrive. It’s the passion of local leaders, like Steven, that makes the impact we seek truly possible.

“This is probably the best job I’ve ever had,” he said.

Erica Curry, director of program resources and practices at FoodCorps, oversees the development of resources for FoodCorps’ service program, including a new series of nutrition education lessons that makes it easier for schools to integrate hands-on nutrition education into standard curricula. FoodCorps is proud to be supported nationally by the Walmart Foundation as together we seek to reach children with high quality, impactful nutrition education that sets kids up for healthy futures.

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