Walmart unveils AI, drone expansion plans to improve shopping experience

Walmart has revealed plans to embrace some of the latest technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI) and drones, to enhance a customer’s buying experience. 

During Tuesday’s keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, the nation’s largest retailer outlined its plan for ongoing innovation; specifically, how the technology will benefit customers, its team and society.

"We build technology to serve people and not the other way around," said Doug McMillon, president and CEO at Walmart. "Walmart’s purpose is to help people live better, and today, more than ever, advances in technology make it feel like anything is possible."

At CES, Walmart showcased a new AI-powered search experience, which will allow customers to search by specific use cases like "a football Super Bowl party" versus an individual search like "chips" or "90-inch TV." The tool then generates relevant, cross-category results, according to the company.


Exterior view of a Walmart store on August 23, 2020 in North Bergen, New Jersey. (Credit: Kena Betancur/VIEWpress via Getty Images)

Walmart also unveiled "InHome Replenishment," which aims to use AI to follow shopping habits and ensure customers’ online carts are filled with the correct items at the right time.

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"While omnichannel retail has been around for decades, this new type of retail – adaptive retail – takes it a step further," said Suresh Kumar, Walmart’s global chief technology officer and chief development officer. "It’s retail that is not only eCommerce or in-store, but a single, unified retail experience that seamlessly blends the best aspects of all channels. And for Walmart, adaptive retail is rooted in a clear focus on people."

The retailer also announced the expansion of its drone delivery service to 1.8 million additional households in the Dallas Fort-Worth area. Of the 120,000 items in a Supercenter, Walmart said that 75% meet the size and weight requirements for drone delivery.

Walmart executives said no other rival has gotten this close to this type of drone concentration of households in a big metro market, according to the Associated Press.

Many retailers have been turning to AI to improve customers’ shopping experiences. 

In Sept., Uber Eats announced new features on its food delivery app which would include more payment options and an AI-powered chatbot to help users find restaurant deals, reorder favorites and explore new restaurants. 

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Last year, LinkedIn also announced it would be testing out new AI-powered features to help both employers and job seekers. According to the company, the feature would provide personalized writing suggestions for both the "about" and "headline" sections of a subscriber’s profile. 

This story was reported from Los Angeles.