Advertisement
09/14/2022

Walmart Canada targets out-of-stocks in stores with AI

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
Dan Berthiaume profile picture
Image
Walmart Canada store associate
Walmart Canada is automating out-of-stock detection in stores.

The Canadian subsidiary of Walmart is automating the process of detecting when items are missing from store shelves.

Following a 70-store pilot, Walmart Canada is rolling out a computer vision artificial intelligence (AI) solution from Focal Systems that uses cameras to automate out-of-stock detection to all stores. The solution, which is integrated with the retailers existing inventory systems, automatically detects real-time availability concerns, such as out-of-stock or low-stock products on shelves, and directs store associates to replenish them.

Walmart says it is one of the first retailers in Canada to deploy an AI solution for on-shelf availability. Heres how the system works:

  1. Computer vision cameras are installed in high-traffic areas throughout the store, pointed directly at shelves. At pre-determined intervals, the cameras scan the shelves. 
  2. When a product goes out-of-stock, it will trigger replenishment through Walmart Canada’s existing inventory systems.  
  3. An associate will receive the alert and re-stock the shelf as soon as possible to ensure maximum product availability for customers – whether they’re shopping in-store or online for grocery pickup and delivery.  

According to Walmart Canada, so far store managers and associates have had a positive response to the technology.

“We know it can be disappointing for customers when we don’t have products they want available on our shelves. That’s why we initiated this pilot using technology from Focal Systems that takes the guesswork out of knowing when a product is out of stock,” said Robin DeMers, director, store optimization, Walmart Canada. “This leading-edge technology provides real-time, automated alerts for replenishment in key priority areas within our stores. It also empowers our associates with cool tech that makes a big difference in the way they are able to work and provide the best possible customer experience.”

"With this bold step, Walmart is driving this industry forward in AI-adoption and retail automation, challenging the status-quo on availability, customer experience, and employee satisfaction,” said Francois Chaubard, CEO, Focal Systems. “Walmart is raising the bar, and we are inspired to help in any way we can. Focal is thrilled to be a key part of Walmart's store digitization efforts nationwide!"

This investment in technology to automate out-of-stock detection is the latest in a series of innovative technology rollouts by Walmart Canada during 2022. In June, Walmart Canada began piloting Walmart Now, the first virtual convenience store available in Canada, in the Greater Toronto area. Walmart Now offers an assortment of close to 4,000 items, including apparel basics, toys, personal care, and house cleaning essentials, picked and delivered from 10 existing Walmart Canada locations in as fast as 30 minutes by Instacart.

 

In April, the retailer partnered with music, media and technology company Stingray to offer digital audio advertising in its stores. Walmart Canada has joined the Stingray Retail Media Network. Under the agreement, Stingray will be responsible for exclusive sales representation, in partnership with the Walmart Connect ad platform, of all in-store digital audio advertising within the national Walmart Canada retail footprint.

As a result of this new partnership, Walmart Canada is enabling brands to reach its in-store customers through contextually relevant audio messages that are digitally ad-served via Stingray’s proprietary streaming media technology.

April also saw Walmart Connect open tts most advanced distribution center to date. Located in Surrey, British Columbia, the facility  uses technology from Witron that allows it to complete as many as 150,000 order picks per day, improving the efficiency and speed of distribution while requiring less physical effort from employees. It will ship pantry items, fresh and frozen grocery goods to 45 Walmart stores in British Columbia, reducing  the company’s long-haul trips from Alberta.