Amazon and Walmart are hoping new tech will make the holidays a little less difficult. While no one thought 2022’s busy season was ever going to be easy, the embrace and use of new digital processes — in stores, websites and warehouses — by the top two retailers is trying to make it so.
While Walmart CEO Doug McMillon cautioned investors this week that the challenging economy had led to “historically high” theft from its stores — and others — and that those loses were hindering the retailer’s efforts to keep prices down, he also said the omnichannel transformation he’s led during his nearly nine-year tenure was paying off.
“When I think about winning with the customer and member, I think the improvements that we’re making in-store with pickup, with delivery, whether that’s from a store or e-commerce [site] around the world in the 24 markets that we operate in, is making progress,” McMillon told investors at the Morgan Stanley retail conference, expressing his confidence in top and bottom line growth.
To fuel that digital shift and also give frazzled consumers a hand, Walmart announced its latest digital shopping tool this week, called TrendGetter, which enables image-based search and suggestions from the retailer’s vast array of SKUs.
“We know our customers are searching for what they love at can’t-miss prices,” Walmart Vice President of Brand Strategy and Marketing Casey Schlaybaugh said in the release. With the help of the visual search tool, she said customers can easily locate the same or a similar product presumably priced at or below its rivals.
Not to be outdone, Amazon was reported this week to be preparing to scale its own TikTok style social commerce shopping tool, known as Inspire, in the coming months — albeit not in time for Christmas.
Short-form video shopping “is an incredibly useful medium of helping people discover and understand products,” Oliver Messenger, Amazon’s director of shopping, told the WSJ, noting that video-based content also helped customers gain a better understanding of products.
At the same time, Amazon continues to ramp up its contactless “Just Walk Out” checkout technology in its own retail locations as well as others, notably third-party supermarkets. According to a company press release, the category expansion into a Community Grocers store in Kansas City marked the first time that the tech was being installed in the U.S. in a non-Amazon-owned location — and presumably not the last.
“We are thrilled to work with Community Groceries to unlock a fast and frictionless experience for their shoppers in Kansas City — one we believe they’ll enjoy very much,” Dilip Kumar, vice president of Amazon Web Services (AWS) Applications, said in a statement. “We’re honored to have them as our first customer in the grocery vertical to launch a Just Walk Out technology and Amazon One-enabled store.”
Similar Just Walk Out expansion into grocery stores has already begun in the U.K.
Outside their physical retail locations, Amazon and Walmart’s investments in supply chain and fulfillment center tech continued this week, in a bid to make shopping and shipping faster for customers who will likely never even know their order was picked, packed, labeled and loaded by non-human hands.
At the same time, the companies AI-powered digital upgrades in their cavernous warehouses aren’t just about speed and efficiency, they’re also aimed at safety, reducing risk and protecting employees, and as PYMNTS reported this week, ultimately replace some of them.
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