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Walmart, Other Retailers Tap AI-Powered Tools to Personalize Consumer Journey 

Walmart recently introduced artificial intelligence (AI) features into its app, making it easier to plan events and showing how the company is stepping up its game in AI technology. 

The retail giant is among many companies turning to AI to enhance search. Online sellers are using AI to better understand customers’ wants by analyzing vast quantities of data and using the information to offer better search results. 

“For example, AI algorithms can analyze engagement rates, trends, and hashtag performance, enabling retailers to optimize their posts for better visibility and engagement,” Damian Rollison, director of market insights at the online marketing platform SOCi, told PYMNTS in an interview. “Additionally, some are leveraging AI to create personalized shopping experiences directly within these social platforms, such as virtual try-ons or AI-driven chatbots that provide product recommendations based on user interactions.”

Walmart’s AI Push

During a February earnings call with analysts, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon discussed the company’s generative AI-powered search features in its app.

“The thing we’re most excited about that’s already happened is the way search has improved and the way generative AI helped us really improve a solution-oriented search experience for customers and members,” McMillon said on the earnings call. “And it happened pretty quickly.”

Walmart’s AI Search is designed to make shopping quicker and easier. Instead of having to search for many different items one by one, like snacks or decorations for a party, customers can now just type in what they’re planning, like a “football watch party.” The AI then quickly lists everything you need, organizing it so nothing is missed or repeated. This tool saves time by understanding what customers are looking for and helps them make better choices with highlights on essential product features and summaries of customer reviews.

Retailers are adopting a search solution fundamentally built on AI to deliver hyper-personalized shopping experiences, Roland Gossage, CEO of GroupBy, a search and product discovery technology company, told PYMNTs in an interview.

An AI-first search and product discovery platform leverages data from individuals’ searches, such as past purchase history, viewed products, and other clickstream data, to deliver personalized experiences at every touchpoint — from search and product recommendations to tailored marketing campaign results that are ranked and ordered according to individual preferences.

Online sellers are using AI to make searching for products much easier and faster. Instead of clicking through many menus, AI helps customers find what they need in fewer steps.

“With AI-powered year-make-and-model-fitment searches, shoppers can find the exact product they need from a single search bar query, streamlining the shopping experience and improving conversions,” Gossage said. 

AI is revolutionizing search experiences by handling vast amounts of data efficiently, enhancing both customer satisfaction and operational efficiency, Gossage said. Moving away from the labor-intensive keyword-matching methods that needed constant tweaking, AI adoption frees up to 60% of merchandisers’ time, allowing them to focus on tasks that boost sales.

“Even with tens of thousands of rules and hours spent each day fine-tuning them, most merchandising teams can only optimize the top 5% of all searches for an enterprise-sized eCommerce site,” Gossage said. “A next-gen, AI-first solution can eliminate all search rules, allowing merchandisers to redirect their attention to revenue-generating activities such as campaign creation, catalog expansion, and optimization, boosting high-margin products for modernization opportunities, and more.”

Consumers are increasingly interacting with AI tools, according to a November report by PYMNTS Intelligence titled “AI-Enabled Payments Enhance Customer Options.” The report found that a significant number of consumers use AI-related services on a weekly basis: 84% search online, 52% use navigation apps or devices, and another 52% receive online product recommendations. Furthermore, one-third of consumers consider AI technologies to be a very or extremely important part of their daily lives.

The Future of Search

As AI algorithms improve, retailers will be able to offer more accurate and relevant search results, enhancing the overall shopping experience, Rollison said. Moreover, as AI technologies evolve, they will provide deeper insights into consumer preferences and behavior, enabling retailers to anticipate needs and tailor their offerings more precisely. 

AI is set to revolutionize search in retail by introducing more intuitive and predictive technologies, Sergii Opanasenko, co-founder of Greenice, an agency focused on AI solutions, told PYMNTS in an interview.

Instead of merely responding to direct searches, AI will soon offer suggestions tailored to a customer’s behavior, geographic location, time of year, and even current social trends, providing a proactive search experience. This predictive approach means customers will encounter products and offers that align with their interests seamlessly, without the need for detailed searches.

Furthermore, the advent of “zero query” search technology will enable AI to anticipate a customer’s needs based on their profile, bringing personalized offers to the forefront without any input from the user, Opanasenko said. 

“AI in retail search personalization has the ability to analyze huge amounts of data to understand and predict consumer behavior,” Rollison said. “This capability enables retailers to offer highly personalized shopping experiences, which can lead to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty. By leveraging AI, retailers can automate and optimize many marketing tasks, making decisions more impactful and intelligent.”