Walmart uncovers AI search and delivery, plus drones at CES

(L-R) Walmart's Whitney Pegden and Latriece Watkins at CES 2024. (Photo credit: Getty Images)
(L-R) Walmart's Whitney Pegden and Latriece Watkins at CES 2024. (Photo credit: Getty Images)

The retail titan unveiled a series of new gadgets and services in Las Vegas on Tuesday.

Walmart held an announcement-heavy keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show on Tuesday, unveiling innovations in delivery, shopping and search, some of which are expectedly powered by generative AI.

Whitney Pedgen, VP of new propositions for Walmart e-commerce, took to the stage to announce a new automatic in-home delivery function that uses AI to determine when a shopper most likely needs to restock on certain items. 

Through its $20 monthly InHome Replenishment service, Walmart will automate purchasing and delivery right into a consumer’s fridge or garage using the smart lock-powered InHome delivery service. People won’t just return home to see groceries at their door, but will rather come back to a fridge fuller than they left it.

The service isn’t a subscription, however, and customers will be able to remove items from their cart before they ship – just in case the AI slips up and tries to order something they don’t need.

The AI announcements didn’t stop there, as the retailer also revealed a generative AI search feature in its app that allows shoppers to find items by use cases, such as for a party. That function is live on IOS as of Tuesday and will hit other platforms this quarter.

In September, Walmart teased a chatbot shopping assistant that can answer consumer’s questions about what to buy.

Shortly after the announcement, CEO Doug McMillon was joined on stage by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, where the two spent a few minutes discussing Walmart’s reliance on large language models from Azure OpenAI and the breakthroughs generative AI can make in sectors such as healthcare and education.

“No doubt some tasks will go away and some roles will change,” McMillon said. “And some of them should, like the ones that involve lifting heavy weights or doing repetitive tasks. As that’s happening, we’re designing new roles that our associates tell us are more enjoyable and satisfying, and also often result in higher pay.”

McMillon tempered these statements by emphasizing that Walmart will create tech that services its human workers, not the other way around.

Walmart is also increasingly relying on AI to provide accurate delivery estimates based on associate and driver availability and real-world conditions such as traffic and weather.

Walmart’s keynote wasn’t limited to AI announcements, however. The retailer also shared that it has expanded its drone delivery service to supply 75% of the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area, which is around 1.8 million households, with day-of delivery service, promising those within 15 miles of the hub deliveries as fast as 10 minutes.

Latriece Watkins, EVP and chief merchandising officer, also hopped on stage to position the company as a bigger player in the fashion industry by with the showcasing Shop with Friends, a shopping tool that uses augmented reality to let shoppers virtually try on clothes before saving and sending them to friends for a second opinion.

Lastly, Walmart subsidiary Sam’s Club announced that it’s testing in-app services that let shoppers scan and purchase items from their devices, then leave the store without needing to have their receipt checked by an employee. As they exit, a giant gate scans their carts, then matches those items to their purchases using AI.

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