Walmart Seeks 3D Imaging Patent To Enhance Online Grocery Shopping

Walmart considers sky-based drones

Walmart wants to make online food shopping easier by creating clearer images of the products consumers are looking to buy. Today, stock images are a typical sight in the eCommerce arena, which the experts agree is likely dampening the sales of online grocery orders.

Consumers like convenience, but they also like to be able to interact physically with the food they desire before they actually purchase it.

Walmart is hoping it can square that circle with a visual solution for the online fresh food shopping problem.

A recently published patent, first reported on by CB Insights, indicates that Walmart is attempting to build a system that allows consumers to order fresh grocery items based on more defined visuals and approve the items they are looking to purchase.

The new system, according to the patent documents, will leverage 3D scanning to present graphics of in-store items to online shoppers, thus creating what the patent refers to as the “Fresh Online Experience” (FOE).

In action, the FOE system allows customers to make their initial order by viewing a stock image of an item. A store associate is assigned to scan said grocery item from the actual inventory in the store from which the customer is ordering, creating an image for the customer to inspect.

That image is then sent back to the customer via a “store associate interface” and “communications module” that then folds the picture in with the customer’s order. The customer receives an alert asking them to approve or reject the item in a set amount of time. Items that are rejected will automatically generate a message back to the store associate, who would then be instructed to scan another item for approval.

This can’t go on forever, of course. Customers can only reject so many fresh items. When the limit is reached, the customer is presented with the list they’ve already seen and is prompted to pick one or move on to another item. Approved items receive an “edible watermark” and are sent to be packaged for pick-up or delivery.

The Walmart patent also notes that certain aspects of the FOE system may be automated. A hypothetical “scanning module” could include a “three-dimensional scanning device” to auto-select and auto-scan fresh items once a customer places an order. In that case, an associate would only be necessary for  viewing and processing the scans to complete the process.



The September 2020 Leveraging The Digital Banking Shift Study, PYMNTS examines consumers’ growing use of online and mobile tools to open and manage accounts as well as the factors that are paramount in building and maintaining trust in the current economic environment. The report is based on a survey of nearly 2,200 account-holding U.S. consumers.