The AI-driven Walmart experience: Towards customer-centric, adaptive retail

| min read
AI-driven Walmart experience

At CES 2024 earlier this month, Walmart keynote speakers attributed the rise of adaptive retail to AI. How is the retail corporation using AI to transform shopping and give customers what they want? The key to success in today's interconnected retail environment is to become agile and predictive.

With AI, Walmart is leading the way in customer-centric transformation. This approach signifies a significant departure from traditional retail practices, not just a minor upgrade but a paradigm shift. The retailer is redefining the way businesses interact with customers in an era of personalized, data-driven, and customer-focused experiences.

The recent developments around the use of AI at Walmart are not only enhancing the convenience of shopping, but also helping restructure the company’s operations to cater to the unique customer needs and preferences. This data-driven approach is shaping how Walmart interacts with its customers, creating a future where shopping is not just a transaction but an engaging and personalized experience that anticipates customer needs and preferences.  

The idea is to move from an omnichannel retailer to becoming an ‘adaptive retailer’ such that the business can intersect you at the point of your convenience to get you what you want, how you want. One AI-enabled feature at Walmart that reflects this strategic move is “Text to Shop” (introduced in December 2022), allowing customers to add to cart and place orders via text messaging.

Earlier this month, Walmart's keynote speech at CES 2024 offered a glimpse into the American retailer’s key AI-powered innovations. InHome Replenishment, Virtual Try-on, View in Your Home, Shop with Friends, and Sam's Club Scan & Go, are integral components of this adaptive retail strategy. These innovations are not isolated enhancements. These technologies create an interconnected ecosystem for a seamless shopping experience that meets the needs of in-store and online consumers. Let us take a brief look at each of these: 

InHome Replenishment: By analyzing purchase history and usage patterns, this feature uses AI to predict when essential items are running low in a customer's pantry or refrigerator. By automatically placing orders for these items, the AI eliminates the hassle of repeated shopping trips and reduces food waste. This feature not only saves customers time and money but also contributes to Walmart's environmental sustainability goals. InHome Replenishment is currently available in select markets, with plans to expand to more locations.

Virtual Try-on: As the name suggests, customers can virtually try on clothes using their smartphone cameras, enabling them to visualize how apparel would look and fit on their bodies in real-time. For example, a customer looking to try men's party wear can instantly try various cocktail attire for men and choose the one that fits him the best. This feature eliminates the need for trial and error in fitting rooms, saving customers time and frustration, and empowers them to make informed purchasing decisions. Apparel brands can use this feature to enhance customer engagement and drive sales by revolutionizing the way they showcase their products. The AI-powered Virtual Try-on feature is currently available for over 100,000 apparel items in the Walmart app.

View in Your Home: This feature extends the virtual try-on concept to home décor items, allowing customers to virtually place furniture and home accessories in their homes using their smartphones. With this feature, customers can visualize how products would enhance their living spaces and complement existing décor, fostering confident purchase decisions. For industry leaders in home décor, this feature presents an opportunity to revolutionize the way products are presented and sold, creating a more immersive and engaging experience for customers. View In Your Home is currently available in the Walmart app, with limited availability for select home goods items.

Shop with Friends: As a social-commerce strategy, this development (currently in beta testing) elevates the virtual try-on experience by inviting friends to join in the virtual fitting session. Customers receive real-time feedback and suggestions from their peers, fostering a collaborative and interactive shopping experience. Adding this feature not only adds a sense of fun and social interaction, but also assists in guiding customers towards informed purchases. For social media platforms and influencers, this feature presents an opportunity to integrate their services into the shopping experience, creating a more engaging and interactive shopping journey for customers.  

Sam's Club Scan & Go: For a hassle-free checkout process, the AI-enabled Scan & Go feature allows customers to scan items directly into their smartphones as they shop. It automatically identifies and tracks items, eliminating the need to wait in checkout lines. Computer vision technology is used in the exit area to capture cart images and verify payment. This feature saves time and reduces friction in the shopping experience, enhancing overall customer satisfaction. For industry leaders in point-of-sale systems and payment processing, this feature highlights the potential of AI to streamline checkout processes and enhance customer experience. Scan & Go is currently running pilots across 10 Sam’s Club locations.

As customers navigate effortlessly across platforms and spaces, they no longer think about which channel they are using. This is where AI presents a roadmap for retailers to stay ahead of the curve and capture market share.

Walmart is setting an example by investing in AI-first retail transformation through seamless backend integration, smart supply chains that anticipate and orchestrate goods movement, as well as more accurate understanding of consumer intent and preferences via machine learning. To become well-positioned for sustainable growth, industry players must take actionable steps toward adaptive retail. 

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