Walmart Canada to Spend $3.5B on Technology and the Customer Experience

Jamie Grill-Goodman
Editor in Chief
Jamie goodman

Walmart Canada plans to invest $3.5 billion over the next five years to simplify the online and in-store shopping experience, including the creation of 150 “stores of the future.”

In addition to re-invented “smarter” stores, the investment will lead to a faster e-commerce experience, two new distribution centers to speed up the flow of products, an enhanced omni-experience and modern digital tools to ensure associates can best serve customers. It will also create hundreds of Canadian construction jobs and forge new partnerships with Canadian technology companies, according to the retailer.  

“Millions of customers choose to shop with us in-store and online every day – and that’s a tremendous honor,” said Horacio Barbeito, president and CEO, Walmart Canada. “Today’s significant investment will position us for future growth and make Walmart Canada even better for our associates and our customers. We are doubling down on our focus on the customer experience – not just to keep up but to lead and to be the very best in Canada.”

Part of the investment will go to creating modernized “stores of the future.” Walmart Canada, which operates more than 400 stores nationwide, will renovating more than 150 stores over the next three years – over one-third of the store network. The new investments are in addition to more than $1 billion invested into remodeling and opening stores over the past five years, and will utilize digitization to create “smarter stores.” For example, renovated stores will boast expanded electronic shelf labels, shelf scanners to monitor product volumes, and robotics and computer vision cameras to minimize touches and maximize efficiency and accuracy.

Additionally, a new checkout experience will aim to reduce touchpoints. Walmart Canada is adding tap-to-pay, a new bigger self-checkout experience and “Check Out With Me” mobile payment technology to allow associates to checkout customers anywhere in the store.

In addition to the renovations, the retailer will expand “Walmart Pickup” to approximately 270 stores – or 70% of locations – by end of 2020. It’s also investing in new technology to speed up the pickup experience, including advanced notification, and plans to improve fulfillment center operations to increase speed and traceability. It’s piloting “hybrid locations” – supercenters with micro fulfilment centers in their backroom – to increase the speed of fulfilment for pickup and delivery.

Of the investment, $1.1 billion will go to build two new distribution centers and renovate an existing distribution center, creating hundreds of construction jobs.

A next generation 550,000-square-foot distribution center in Vaughan, ON, is slated to open in 2024. The facility will leverage next generation automation and technology working with Vanderlande. Another new 300,000-square-foot distribution center currently under construction in Surrey, BC, is slated to open in 2022. For this DC Walmart Canada is working with Witron on the site’s distribution logistics technology. Additionally new automated systems are slated to go live in early 2021 in an existing Cornwall, ON, distribution center aimed at managing apparel, health and beauty, and other small general merchandise items. The systems will feature machine learning, Cobot Technology which can work in concert with associates to improve the accuracy and efficiency of operations.

“The retail business is as dynamic as ever and this investment ensures we’re developing a supply chain that is the envy of the world,” said John Bayliss, Senior Vice President, Logistics and Supply Chain, Walmart Canada. “The better the supply chain, the quicker our customers can get the products they want. This investment will transform our supply chain and create hundreds of Canadian construction jobs along the way.”

New technologies in the DC

Walmart Canada also plans a slew of investment in new tech in the DC. New next generation warehouse management systems are omni capable in meeting the future needs of both physical stores and e-commerce. It’s investing in telematics and internet of things sensors across over 2,200 trailers to give real-time information around the quality and freshness of its deliveries, and is launching artificial intelligence software in partnership with o9 to more accurately predict and better plan volume.

Walmart Canada is also scaling the blockchain transportation payments platform with Toronto based DLT Labs – a blockchain solution for transportation payments system.

“DLT Labs is proud to be Walmart Canada’s technology partner in bringing the world’s largest blockchain solution into production for transportation management and payments," said Loudon Owen, CEO, DLT Labs. "This innovation has already virtually eliminated the challenge of invoice reconciliation that pervades the transportation industry, reducing discrepancies that could reach 70% of all invoices to well under 2% with our technology, delivering profound operational improvements and cost savings.

In addition, new machine learning training software will support improved training and safety on the front lines of Walmart's DC and fleet operations with Axonify, a Waterloo based micro-frontline learning company.

“We need to do everything we can to delight our customer every single time they choose to shop with us, whether it’s online or in the store,” said Sam Wankowski, Chief Operations Officer, Walmart Canada. “We’re challenging ourselves to be better and be relentlessly focused on excellent omni-customer service and experience. This means better stores, quicker service and doing what Walmart does best – focusing on customers, always at Walmart’s everyday low prices.”

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