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Walmart integrates drone delivery in app, expands AI, enhances pricing

Walmart DSL
The Walmart app indicating drone delivery is an option.

Walmart is making a major change to the price labels on its store shelves.

The retail giant on Friday unveiled several new new technology initiatives across its operations, including enhancing its drone delivery and InHome kitchen and garage delivery service, piloting an AI shopping assistant and the expanded rollout of digital shelf labels.

Based on successful testing at a Walmart store in Grapevine, Texas, the retailer plans to roll out digital shelf labels to 2,600 stores by 2026. Walmart stores have over 120,000 products on shelves, each with an individual price tag. 

Every week, thousands of price updates occur at Walmart stores. The digital shelf labels, developed by Vusion Group, enable the retailer to update prices at the shelf using a mobile app, reducing the need to walk around the store to change paper tags by hand and giving associates more time to support customers in the store.

In addition, a “stock to light” feature allows employees to flash an LED light on the shelf tag using their mobile device, signaling locations that require attention. This feature makes it easier for associates to identify shelf location when stocking shelves.

And a “pick to light” feature guides associates directly to products needed for online orders, speeding up the picking process and improving order accuracy.

In a blog on Walmart's website Daniela Boscan, food & consumable team lead, Hurst, Texas, wrote that the digital shelf labels have increased productivity, with prices updated with just a few clicks.

"A price change that used to take an associate two days to update now takes only minutes with the new DSL system," Boscan said.

The digital labels have also simplified stock replenishment and provided faster order pickup and fulfillment, she noted.

 Highlights of Walmart's other new tech initiatives are below. 

App-based drone delivery orders

Starting later in June 2024, customers in the Dallas-Fort Worth market will begin to be notified of the new capability to place drone delivery orders through the Walmart app if they are eligible for the service based on the address associated with their account. 

The integration will be done in phases as more drone delivery sites launch and drone providers receive additional regulatory approvals to fly more goods across greater distances. 

Walmart, which initially launched drone-based deliveries from three stores in Northwest Arkansas in late 2021, recently expanded a partnership it launched with Wing, an on-demand drone delivery provider powered by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, for drone delivery in the Dallas-Fort Worth market in August 2023. Walmart also offers drone delivery in select markets in Arizona, Florida and Texas.

"Our goal is to make drone delivery completely seamless for our partners and their customers," Wing CEO Adam Woodworth said in a statement emailed to Chain Store Age. "When Wing delivery is available within the Walmart app later this month, customers will have a wider selection and a better shopping experience than ever before. This is a major step toward making drone delivery a part of everyday life."

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AI algorithm for InHome replenishment

Available as an add-on for the Walmart+ paid membership program, the InHome service delivers fresh groceries, everyday essentials and other products directly into customers’ homes, including placing items straight into their kitchen or garage refrigerator. 

In January 2024, Walmart revealed it would enhance InHome, recently expanded in five new states, with a personalized replenishment algorithm to learn and anticipate customers’ regularly purchased items, including frequency and quantity. Initial testing began in April 2024, with positive customer feedback so far.

Walmart drone app screens
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AI shopping assistant

Walmart is now beta testing a generative AI-based shopping assistant which engages customers in natural, free-flowing conversations. For example, the shopping assistant can respond to customer inquiries such as, "What's the ideal present for a five-year-old?" 

Over time, Walmart says the assistant will evolve to include more advanced features and capabilities.

"Driven by our commitment to help our customers live better, we're constantly working to create shopping experiences that are convenient, engaging and personalized,” said Tom Ward, chief e-commerce officer, Walmart U.S. “This experience needs to be cohesive, interconnected and seamlessly integrated into their everyday lives. By consistently pushing the boundaries, we're continuing to lead the industry in service of our customers."

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