Walmart enhances search, shopping with generative AI

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Walmart generative AI shopping assistant
Walmart is testing a generative AI-based shopping assistant.

Walmart continues to dive deeper into generative artificial intelligence (AI) throughout its enterprise.

The discount retailer, which rolled out the Walmart GenAI Playground, an early-stage internal generative AI tool where employees  can explore and learn about the new technology in June 2023 and included a generative AI assistant in an employee app it launched in August 2023, is now testing several generative AI-based search and shopping solutions.

As part of these efforts, Walmart is leveraging generative AI to enhance its search experience to better understand context and enable customers to search by specific use cases, with the goal of generating more relevant results that allow them to save time.

For example, customers could search “unicorn-themed toddler birthday party” instead of conducting multiple separate searches for unicorn-themed products such as plates, streamers and party favors.  

Walmart is also developing generative AI tools to assist customers with complex purchases, such as selecting an age-appropriate cell phone that’s compatible with their current wireless provider. In addition, the retailer is researching how the technology can aid consumer decision-making by creating tools that highlight priority product features and condense reviews into concise summaries.

In other generative AI efforts, Walmart is experimenting with a new tool that would integrate the technology into its recently upgraded augmented reality (AR)-based View in Your Home feature and virtual try-on solutions.

With this tool, which is in early-stage development, customers can simply share their budget, theme and any other preferences to receive personalized assistance, powered by GenAI, in designing a room.  

"We’re constantly searching for ways to innovate and use emerging tech to make shopping easier and meet the needs of our customers," Walmart said in a corporate blog post. "We’ll continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible. And as we do, we will always keep our customers at the center."

Walmart pilots hands-free voice shopping

In other technology innovation initiatives, Walmart is building on the text-to-shop option it released in December 2022 by testing a voice experience in the Walmart mobile app that allows customers to shop hands-free on its e-commerce site.

Some potential feature capabilities the retailer is testing include enabling customers to shop using voice commands, engaging in back-and-forth conversations with the assistant, and booking pickup and delivery time slots.

Walmart leverages AI across the enterprise

While Walmart is still developing its generative AI capabilities, the retailer has been actively integrating AI into its enterprise. At the kickoff of its recent two-day 2023 Investment Community meeting, Walmart unveiled a plan for what the discount titan says is “a new more connected and automated supply chain which will improve the experience for customers and associates and simultaneously increase productivity.” 

Over half of Walmart’s fulfillment centers could be automated within three years. The retailer expects the outcome to improve in-stock levels, inventory accuracy and flow across all fulfillment channels.

Walmart also utilizes applied AI to identify when an item purchased online can be fulfilled from one of its 4,700 stores instead of fulfillment centers. This step is intended to reduce both the number of miles driven and the number of boxes used for shipping.

To ensure that items can more sustainably travel from stores to customers’ homes, the retailer combines multiple orders on single delivery routes and delivers them using electric vans.

Other examples include the retailer utilizing advanced AI capability and employee expertise to streamline digital product discovery for Spanish-speaking customers.