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Walmart beta tests text-to-shop feature

Walmart is piloting a text-based e-commerce offering.

Walmart customers may soon be able to text their shopping list.

The discount giant’s Store No. 8 technology incubator and global technology team are currently beta testing a shopping experience called “Walmart Text to Shop” with customers in select areas. According to Walmart, it is learning about when and how customers prefer to use a conversational shopping experience, and it plans to make Text to Shop more widely available in the future.

[Read more: Walmart launches Store No. 8 — but it’s not really a store]

In addition to streamlining the shopping process for busy customers, Walmart says Shop to Text is also personalized for individual consumers.

“By understanding our customers’ preferences, we also solve the paradox of choice and save them time by serving up what we know they love best,” Dominique Essig, VP of conversational commerce, Store No. 8, said in a corporate blog post. “Most importantly, we offer Walmart customers the opportunity to shop no matter where they are, and to communicate naturally by simply asking for what they want, any way they want.”

Walmart is positioning Shop-to-Text as a step forward in its voice-activated shopping offering. Initially launched in 2017 in partnership with Google, voice-activated shopping enables customers to purchase from an assortment of hundreds of thousands of items available via Google or Apple voice device. The customer’s voice command will automatically open the Walmart app and add their preferred version of a product (so for example, a customer could simply ask for milk and receive the brand and package size they typically order without having to specify).

Walmart introduced its own voice-activated shopping experience as a direct counter to its chief rival Amazon’s Alexa voice-controlled device, which has also served as a digital commerce platform for many years. Amazon is also starting to make inroads into text-based shopping. As part of its early 2021 Black Friday promotion, Amazon is enabling U.S. Prime members to send recipients a gift without knowing their delivery address by selecting the product on the Amazon app, selecting “add gift receipt for easy returns” during checkout, and then typing in a known email address or mobile number of the recipient. That individual can either accept the purchase or exchange for an Amazon gift card, without letting the sender know they did.

“The advantage of conversational commerce is that customers can communicate with Walmart the way they communicate with friends and family,” Essig said. “Easy, convenient, with no need to learn how to use a new platform. Let’s face it, we’ll never stop trying to do a million things at once. Our hope is that conversational commerce can help ease the stress of the never-ending to-do list.”

Walmart operates approximately 10,500 stores and clubs under 48 banners in 24 countries and e-commerce websites. Store No. 8 is part of Walmart’s overall innovation strategy and pursues opportunities where the company believes the market is going and focuses on concepts outside of Walmart’s near-term roadmap.

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