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After a number of tests, Walmart is expanding the use of four different in-store technologies to more than 1,000 of its over 4,700 US locations, according to a corporate blog post.
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The technologies automate tasks and facilitate online shopping in the hopes of improving in-store operations and shopping experiences.
Here’s what it means: Over 1,000 Walmart locations will feature automated technologies, providing unique value to the retailer and its consumers.
- Autonomous floor cleaners save associates hours of work. “Auto-C,” Walmart’s name for its autonomous floor cleaner, will be brought to 1,500 new stores, reaching 1,860 locations by next February, according to CNN. Without Auto-C, an employee at each store has to spend 2 hours a day cleaning floors.
- Autonomous shelf scanners promise faster and more accurate inventory management. The technology, which roams aisles and scans them to track what’s out of stock, mislabeled, or mispriced, is dubbed “Auto-S” and will be added to 300 stores, giving it a presence in a total of 350 locations. Auto-S is said to be three times faster and two times as accurate as a human conducting the same tasks, helping Walmart keep its stores better stocked and organized.
- Automated conveyor belts can speed up the unloading process for deliveries at stores. The conveyor belts, called “FAST Unloaders,” scan and sort items as they come off delivery trucks, taking both their department and priority into account. FAST Unloaders are being introduced at 1,200 new stores, reaching 1,700 overall, where they can potentially cut down the number of workers required to unload a truck from eight to four and help complete the process faster.
- Pickup Towers facilitate in-store pickup of online orders. The 16-foot-high towers — which will be added to 900 stores, possibly bringing the tech to as many as 1,600 in total — serve as vending machines for buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS) orders; consumers can place orders online and retrieve them from the in-store towers by scanning a unique barcode from Walmart (see below). This creates a simple in-store pickup process for consumers, which may make them more likely to use Walmart’s BOPIS options regularly.
The bigger picture: These new technologies can allow Walmart to save on labor costs and use its associates more efficiently, enabling it to better leverage its brick-and-mortar empire.
Automating tasks enables Walmart to spend less on labor and deploy associates in ways where they can make more direct impacts on consumers’ shopping experiences. Instead of hiring associates to clean floors, the retailer can place them in mostly consumer-facing roles, like customer service and at checkout. This, when combined with quality omnichannel solutions and more efficiently run locations, can create stores that consumers want to visit regularly, making Walmart’s thousands of stores more valuable assets.
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