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Walmart To Guide Shoppers With Text Messaging

Walmart shoppers who finds themselves lost in the store will soon be able to get directions from their phone — and not with a map.

A messaging service called Walmart Simple Text, unveiled over the weekend at the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon, provides consumers inside Walmart locations with essentially a virtual shopping assistant. A shopper who is unable to locate a particular item can simply text “hi” to 415-214-8445, initiating a conversation with an automated system in which they can type the product they’re looking for and be informed of its specific location (and availability) in the store.

The SMS-based tool, which operates on the Twilio communication platform, was created by the hacker team of Clara Tsao, Rachel Tsao and Devin Finzer.

“We built this app because we’ve always been frustrated in stores, especially Walmart,” Rachel told TechCrunch. “It’s such a huge store.”

Clara provided a specific example of her motivation in creating the service, telling the outlet: “I want to get my hot Cheetos and get right out.”

As noted in the TechCrunch story, if a shopper is unable to get potentially more detailed inquiries met by the texting service (which also encourages users to download the Walmart app), he or she can engage with live customer service by texting “chat.”

Further explaining why the team opted to design a text-based offering rather than an app, Clara said to TechCrunch, “The demographic of large stores was our inspiration; most users don’t know how to download apps, or they don’t know how to find an app. Plus, asking them to use their data plans is a big part of it. We really wanted something that helped them find what they need, and it’ll drive them to the [Walmart] app.”

Finzer, for his part, remarked to the outlet that “[SMS is] a powerful interface; it’s something that people are more and more accustomed to. It’s a gateway to an app.”

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