Walmart has stepped up its innovation game in the past two years since the acquisition of Jet.com and the addition of its founder Marc Lore to the executive team. In short order, the company made a number of e-commerce buys and has been working on new technology to help fuel growth.
Some of that new technology was on display last week at the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Arkansas, a series of events designed to reward and energize associates complete with two days during which media was treated to business segment updates and store tours. There was even a rare backroom peak into how Walmart is using technology to drive efficiency and improve employee conditions, thus reducing turnover and operational costs.
Walmart made waves — and not in the good way — when it launched and then quickly abandoned a mobile order and pay initiative called Scan & Go. Customers found the program less than useful and somewhat intrusive, but the retailer has already iterated another version soon to be rolled out to stores.
New features include integrated store maps, now in 165 locations and rolling out soon to more stores, according to Mark Matthews, vice president of digital acceleration. And while the thousands of Walmart stores in the U.S. may appear identical, particularly supercenters, many are unique in terms of layout and services offered. Mobile updates will now show shoppers these details, even allowing them to access available in-store services, make appointments, see if a movie is available at their local Red Box or rent a carpet cleaner for pickup.
The new store map feature launched quietly earlier this year and already close to half of mobile page views initiated from shoppers in stores where it’s active are going to the maps feature, Matthews told media during the tour.
Roughly 80% of shoppers make paper lists before heading to the store, according to Matthews, and attempts to translate this to digital tools haven’t been widely embraced by shoppers. A new list feature in Walmart’s app lets users enter items in natural language, like “popcorn” or “coffee maker.” The app pushes a limited number of brands or item selections and lets the user choose a specific product. And because the lists are integrated into new store maps, each item can be precisely located down to a four-foot wide section on the shelf.
Walmart is integrating shopper purchase data into the app so that both items bought online and in stores can be accessed by the customer, who can scan a paper receipt to utilize the feature for non-digital transactions. Shoppers will be able to initiate a return within the app, selecting an item from this digital history and creating a barcode on the mobile device. Once at the store, they can go to a designated area at the customer service counter, present the code to be scanned and simply drop off the return. The customer then gets a message that the return was received.