Walmart and Amazon Get Back to Basics to Elevate Signature Shopping Experiences

In a world where Amazon and Walmart are always finding ways to go neck in neck, both retail giants are focusing on enhancing their established strengths this week.  

Amazon is launching a generative artificial intelligence (AI) tool that aims to address shopper questions, and Walmart is investing some serious coin into its physical retail — about $9 billion to be exact, to modernize its experience. 

Amazon AI Tool Tackles Shopper Queries

Amazon is launching a tool that uses AI to respond to shoppers’ questions about a product. The feature in Amazon’s mobile app prompts users to ask questions about a specific item and returns an answer within seconds by summarizing information collected from product reviews and the listing itself. 

“Amazon has been using machine learning and AI for many years in virtually everything we do. We’re constantly inventing to help make customers’ lives better and easier and are currently testing a new feature powered by generative AI to improve shopping on Amazon by helping customers get answers to commonly asked product questions,” said an Amazon spokesperson in an emailed statement to PYMNTS. 

In contrast to OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Amazon’s latest feature doesn’t engage in conversation but can respond to prompts, describe items, stay on topic, and displays an error message if unable to answer a question. 

The anticipated launch follows a series of other AI-related moves by Amazon. 

In October, Amazon Ads unveiled a generative AI solution for image generation. The goal was to assist advertisers in improving their ad campaigns and crafting more engaging content. 

The tool is meant to be easy for users and doesn’t need any technical know-how, according to the release. Advertisers can use image generation on the Amazon Ad Console by choosing their product and clicking “Generate.” The generative AI technology quickly generates a set of lifestyle and brand-themed images based on the product details. Advertisers can fine-tune the images by entering short text prompts and create and test various versions to improve performance. 

Read more: Amazon Launches AI-Powered Image Generation Tool for Advertisers  

In June last year, the company began testing AI-generated summaries for product reviews. It also introduced AI features for third-party sellers to help them write listings. In other areas, it launched “Q,” an AI chatbot for businesses’ daily tasks, and Bedrock, a generative AI service for Amazon Web Services customers. 

Walmart’s $9 Billion Upgrade

On Jan. 12, Walmart revealed a renovated Quakertown Supercenter in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, featuring enhancements that aim to create an immersive shopping experience and including an expanded pharmacy. 

The remodel, dubbed the “store of the future,” incorporates interactive technology that integrates online and in-person shopping. Other upgrades aim to significantly improve the overall shopping experience for customers, as stated in a news release, and play into Walmart’s $9 billion investment to modernize 1,400 stores.  

“Every change is thoughtful,” Hunter Hart, senior vice president at Walmart Realty said in October regarding the retail revamp. “They all ladder up to a greater goal: to meet our customers wherever they are, leveraging our stores to welcome people to a more modern, highly connected Walmart.” 

Other ways Walmart is looking to upgrade and modernize its experience is through partnerships. One of those partnerships is with Uncle Sharkii Poke Bar, in which Walmart is expected to open 10 poke bars in California in the next five months and three in Utah.  

This expansion started with the first Uncle Sharkii Poke Bar in a Walmart in Vacaville, California, in early October. Walmart also wants to change its image from a discount store to an all-purpose “giant” where shoppers can find more than just groceries in 2024. 

With that in mind, Walmart is looking to create a community hub of sorts and has announced this week will be providing customers with complimentary health screenings, covering areas such as glucose, cholesterol, body mass index and blood pressure. Additionally, the company is offering affordable immunizations, including flu, COVID-19, HPV, mumps and measles. 

On Saturday (Jan. 20), Walmart will kick off its inaugural Wellness Day event of 2024 at nearly 4,600 Walmart pharmacies nationwide, running from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. local time. 

This allows Walmart to strengthen its position in health and wellness — an area both Amazon and Walmart have vied for the top spot. 

Read more: How Amazon and Walmart Want to Shape the Future of Health and Wellness