Retail Technology Takeaways from Walmart's CEO

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Retail Technology Takeaways from Walmart's CEO

By Jamie Grill-Goodman - 04/24/2019
An autonomous floor cleaner now carries a camera to gather data on product features to share with a FAST Unloader system in the back room that prioritizes items for restocking.

Walmart Inc. has issued its 2019 Annual Report along with CEO Doug McMillon's annual shareholder letter, in which he reviewed Walmart’s embrace of change and the retail technology helping to push it forward.

The report revealed the retailer's total revenue grew 3% to $514.4 billion in worldwide sales in the latest fiscal year. Walmart U.S. grew comp sales its highest annual growth rate in a decade — 3.6% (excluding fuel) — and e-commerce sales skyrocketed 40%, nearly doubling digital sales over the past two years.

McMillon detailed how Walmart has implemented retail technology to evolve the business rapidly in-line with changing consumer preferences, but noted the tech empowers associates rather than replacing them. He addresses advancements in mobile technology and automation and improvements with associate education and efficiency.

“The ways we can use technology today and in the future are exciting, but our business is still a people business,” McMillon said in the letter. “We are people-led and tech-empowered, and that makes investing in our associates a strategic priority.”

McMillon, who has been at the helm of Walmart for five years now, also noted “the pace and magnitude of our changes are critical to the company’s future as we adapt to an environment that is changing more quickly all the time. We are changing how we work and what we do without changing our purpose and our values.”

Here are the key ways Walmart has implemented retail technology, according to McMillon’s letter:

Sam's Club's new scanning technology recognizes products from any angle without requiring members to search for a barcode on the package.
  • Consumers can shop on Walmart’s app or get through the store faster by finding items on a list, thanks to the map feature in the app.
  • Shoppers can make purchases with Walmart Pay and go digital to skip the pharmacy line and pick up a prescription.
  • Outside stores, customers can pull into a pickup spot and have personal shoppers put their order in their trunk.
  • An autonomous scanner checks sidecounters to help stores improve in-stock levels.
  • An autonomous floor cleaner carries a camera to gather data on product features to share with a FAST Unloader system in the back room that prioritizes items for restocking.
  • Sam’s Clubs are becoming more digital. With the Scan & Go app, customers bypass the checkout line and pay for items on their mobile device, and now the company is testing computer vision instead of barcodes to make the process even faster. The retailer’s new Membership Express can cut the time it takes to sign up from eight minutes to fewer than 60 seconds.
  • In Mexico, many Walmart customers don’t have bank accounts, so the team there launched the Cashi app that acts as a digital bank account. In stores, customers can exchange cash for an electronic deposit onto their mobile device then use the app to shop in the store, online, and to pay their other bills.
  • “In many parts of China, same-day delivery really means same-hour delivery,” McMillon noted. To meet that demand, Walmart invested in a crowd-sourced delivery platform so customers in some locations can receive their merchandise within an hour of placing the order.
  • McMillon said the company is making “good progress on omnichannel initiatives in places like Canada and in Japan” where it has partnered with e-commerce company Rakuten to offer grocery delivery.
  • “With our acquisition of Flipkart, we have positioned ourselves for growth in one of the top three markets in the world,” McMillion said. India has 1.3 billion people and an economy $3 trillion, yet its e-commerce business is less than 3%.
  • Sam’s Clubs are becoming more digital. With the Scan & Go app, customers bypass the checkout line and pay for items on their mobile device, and now the company is testing computer vision instead of barcodes to make the process even faster. The retailer’s new Membership Express can cut the time it takes to sign up from eight minutes to fewer than 60 seconds.
  • In Mexico, many Walmart customers don’t have bank accounts, so the team there launched the Cashi app that acts as a digital bank account. In stores, customers can exchange cash for an electronic deposit onto their mobile device then use the app to shop in the store, online, and to pay their other bills.
  • “In many parts of China, same-day delivery really means same-hour delivery,” McMillon noted. To meet that demand, Walmart invested in a crowd-sourced delivery platform so customers in some locations can receive their merchandise within an hour of placing the order.
  • McMillon said the company is making “good progress on omnichannel initiatives in places like Canada and in Japan” where it has partnered with e-commerce company Rakuten to offer grocery delivery.
  • “With our acquisition of Flipkart, we have positioned ourselves for growth in one of the top three markets in the world,” McMillion said. India has 1.3 billion people and an economy $3 trillion, yet its e-commerce business is less than 3%.