Walmart unveiled several new AI-powered technologies at CES 2024 aimed at revolutionizing the retail shopping experience both in stores and online. The announcements signal Walmart’s aggressive push into innovative technologies to get an edge over rivals like Amazon.
Walmart Expands Drone Delivery Service to Millions of Households in Dallas-Fort Worth Area
Walmart is embarking on its largest-ever expansion of drone delivery in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, covering over 4 million households across the region. The company will be teaming up with drone delivery companies Zipline and DroneUp to offer deliveries of over 50,000 items to customers in as little as 30 minutes.
This massive expansion builds on Walmart’s previous drone delivery pilots in the area and will help the company gather data to shape wider national rollouts. Along with speed and convenience, drones provide sustainable delivery options to reduce CO2 emissions.
Key Facts About the Drone Delivery Expansion:
- Covers 1 million square miles in Dallas Forth-Worth metro area
- Reaches over 4 million households
- 50,000+ items available for delivery
- Deliveries in as little as 30 minutes
- Part of Walmart's aim to operate a delivery network that doesn't rely solely on third-party services
The launch ties in with Walmart’s sustainability efforts to achieve zero emissions by 2040. Drones have a lower carbon footprint than delivery vans.
Walmart Unveils New AI-Powered Voice and Visual Shopping Search
The crown jewel of Walmart’s CES announcements was the unveiling of a new AI-powered voice and visual search. Dubbed “Walmart GenAI,” it allows customers to search for products just by taking a photo or describing what they want.
The new search experience taps into large language models and computer vision AI to understand natural language queries and images. This helps customers easily find the exact products they need.
According to Walmart CEO Doug McMillon, “Whether you’re cooking dinner and need an ingredient, looking for gift ideas or supplies for a home improvement project, finding the right product will now be a whole lot easier.”
In-Home Sensor Technology Helps Customers Automatically Re-Order Essentials
In an innovative smart home pilot, Walmart is testing an AI-powered replenishment service that automatically re-orders household essentials when they run low. Customers place Internet of Things sensors inside pantries and fridges which detect when items need to be re-stocked.
For example, the system can automatically order more eggs and milk when supplies get low, so customers always have essentials without having to manually place orders. It helps eliminate frustrating situations where people run out of everyday basics.
“Never run out of your essentials again. We’ll make sure you have milk in the fridge and your favorite cereal in the pantry,” said Walmart in announcing the new capability.
The company hasn’t indicated plans for wider rollouts yet, but success in the initial pilot could see it rapidly expanded to millions of households.
My Walmart Personal Shopping Assistant Provides Tailored Recommendations
Walmart is determined to transform itself from just a transactional retailer into a true personal shopping assistant. The “My Walmart” app aims to provide users with an interactive personalized experience with tailored product recommendations and inventory checks.
It taps into customers’ purchase history and stated preferences to curate suggested products that align with their needs and taste. Users can get a customized list of recommendations for grocery replenishment based on their previous orders.
My Walmart will also notify users when favored items come back in stock. This intensifies convenience and customization so Walmart can better compete with Amazon.
Bullish Response from Analysts as Walmart Solidifies Tech Leadership in Retail
Walmart’s slew of AI and automation announcements at CES 2024 have been met with an overwhelmingly positive response from analysts. The rapid expansion of drones and rollout of futuristic shopping technologies solidify Walmart’s leadership in retail innovation.
According to RBC analyst Steven Shemesh, “The Developments position WMT as a leader in retail tech and clear #2 behind AMZN in eCommerce.”
Jefferies analyst Stephanie Wissink noted, “[This] accelerates its pivot toward tech-enabled shopping solutions to drive productivity and convenience – two key pillars sustaining its competitive lead in retail.”
Cowen & Co. stated Walmart is “investing intelligently at the intersection of AI/automation and sustainability to bolster convenience, heighten productivity.”
What’s Next? AI and VR Transforming the In-Store Experience
While Walmart’s major CES announcements focused heavily on automation for online shopping and delivery, the company also demoed technology to revolutionize brick-and-mortar stores.
Walmart plans to transform in-store shopping by embedding AI through cameras, sensors and intelligent shelving to enable a hyper-convenient customer experience. Some of the key innovations showcased include:
AI-Powered Inventory Management: Cameras on shelves track stock levels in real-time so employees and shoppers can instantly locate products. Out-of-stocks are proactively identified.
VR Product Visualization: Customers can visualize IKEA-style VR models of furniture in their own homes before buying.
Smart Shopping Carts: Carts guide users through the fastest shopping routes based on their item list. All purchases are automatically rang when leaving the store.
Walmart is pioneering the future of brick-and-mortar retail where technology fades into the background to empower human experiences rather than replace them. The physical store innovations complement its AI-driven online offerings.
Walmart’s barrage of AI, drones and automation announcements at CES 2024 signal an accelerated technology drive to enhance convenience, sustainability and personalization.
As the lines blur between digital and physical retail, Walmart aims to lead the next retail revolution. The major drone expansion and rollout of innovative services like automatic replenishment, personalized recommendations and visual search show a company determined to think big to shape the future.
The tech push couples nicely with Walmart’s green initiatives to reduce emissions, lower costs and boost efficiency. With ambitious aims to reach zero emissions by 2040, drones and AI will play pivotal roles in a greener Walmart.
TheWIDER race for retail supremacy against Amazon looks poised to rapidly heat up. But in the realm of brick-and-mortar stores that still drive the bulk of Walmart’s revenues, the technology innovations showcased at CES 2024 look set to help Walmart maintain dominance.
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