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Walmart’s Secret Weapon for the Future of Retail: Conversational AI

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Walmart’s Secret Weapon for the Future of Retail: Conversational AI

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The Emerging Technology group at Walmart is pioneering the use of conversational AI to revolutionize the retail industry. After working on conversational AI for over 2.5 years, the team has achieved remarkable results. The team employs conversational AI to make every Walmart location and division around the world “speak retail” and rapidly enhance the shopping experience for customers and employees. In this article, we’ll look at how Walmart’s Emerging Tech team is using conversational artificial intelligence to shake up the retail industry.

With $622 billion in revenue in FY2023 and $152.3 billion in Q1 FY2024, Walmart is the largest retailer in the world. The business has been putting faith in cutting-edge technologies like conversational AI to help customers more easily locate and purchase the goods they need. Helping departments all over Walmart build their own conversational experiences at scale, the Emerging Tech group has been crucial.

Helping customers while they shop, automating customer service, and boosting employee output are just some of the ways Walmart is putting conversational AI to work. The company’s customer service automation, which includes its use of conversational AI, has proven highly successful. With the help of conversational AI, customer service representatives spend less time on the phone with clients, and 66 million assisted contacts have been made possible. Over a million employees at Walmart are also participating in the company’s conversational experiences with its 50 million customers.

Walmart’s mission is to use conversational AI to make every Walmart location and department “speak retail,” thereby enhancing the shopping experience for customers and employees globally at unprecedented scale and speed. Using the insights gained by the company in the areas of natural language understanding and processing, as well as large language models, the Emerging Tech team enables teams across the company to create their own conversational experiences at scale.

In order to better serve their customers, the team has been using their retail expertise and data to experiment quickly and learn from their mistakes. The retail industry is being revolutionized by Walmart’s methodical approach to bringing greater scale, speed, and AI-driven insight across multiple channels. The fact that Walmart’s conversational AI platform can be deployed in foreign countries rapidly and without the need for extensive language programming or expertise is fascinating.

Walmart’s efforts to create a scalable platform have allowed the company to expand its use of conversational AI beyond the United States, with teams in countries like Chile able to begin using the platform after only a few weeks of onboarding. Having spent so much time perfecting its conversational AI and modifying its technologies to better serve its customers, Walmart has been able to scale its conversational experiences on a global scale.

Due to its standardized, scalable, and fast-to-deploy platform, the Emerging Tech team was able to onboard the Walmart Chile operations in a matter of weeks, adapting the platform to the specific needs of the country. The Chilean team developed more than 60 unique flows, leading to a 20% increase in customer satisfaction. One of the benefits of Walmart’s approach to conversational AI is the company’s agility and willingness to try new things quickly.

Ask Sam is a conversational artificial intelligence tool developed by Walmart’s Emerging Tech team to increase the efficiency of store employees in areas such as customer service and scheduling. Over two million employees at Walmart are now utilizing the app, and the results have been positive for productivity.

To find the location of an item in the store, for example, a customer could use the Ask Sam feature, which is accessible on all of Walmart’s mobile apps, to pose a question to an employee. But they also use it for themselves, to figure out what they have to do, when they have to do it, and other details about their productivity. The Emerging Technology group at Walmart believes there is great potential in enabling these conversational experiences across the entire company.

The Emerging Tech team at Walmart employs many different technologies to address retail issues. They’ve created things like voice assistance and Text to Shop, where customers can tell stores what they want by sending a text message with a list of items. Because of this, they are able to complete their shopping with minimal effort.

The group uses NLP tools, such as large language models, to help other groups within the company build their own conversational experiences. In order to better serve their customers, the team has been using their retail expertise and data to experiment quickly and learn from their mistakes.

Desiree Gosby, vice president of emerging tech at Walmart, said that when asked about the difficulties of operationalizing large language models, Walmart is not alone. We’re working through a few things to ensure that “we’re creating a trustworthy experience, if you will,” as part of what we do. Gosby also mentioned that the Emerging Tech team is working on cost management and addressing issues like hallucination.

In conclusion, the Emerging Tech team at Walmart is leading a retail revolution with conversational AI. In order to better serve their customers, the team has been using their retail expertise and data to experiment quickly and learn from their mistakes. The retail industry is being revolutionized by Walmart’s methodical approach to bringing greater scale, speed, and AI-driven insight across multiple channels. As a result of the group’s efforts, Walmart can now use conversational AI on a global scale, allowing it to expand its use of the technology beyond the United States. The Emerging Technology group at Walmart believes there is great potential in enabling these conversational experiences across the entire company.

First reported on VentureBeat

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: How is Walmart utilizing conversational AI to revolutionize the retail industry?

Walmart’s Emerging Tech team has been working on conversational AI for over 2.5 years to enhance the shopping experience for customers and employees. They aim to make every Walmart location and division “speak retail” by employing conversational AI. The team focuses on automating customer service, boosting employee productivity, and providing assistance to customers while they shop.

Q2: What are the benefits of using conversational AI at Walmart?

Conversational AI has proven highly successful in automating customer service at Walmart. Customer service representatives spend less time on the phone with clients, and over 66 million assisted contacts have been made possible. Additionally, more than a million Walmart employees engage with conversational experiences, leading to improved customer satisfaction. Conversational AI helps Walmart improve customer service, enhance employee productivity, and streamline the shopping experience.

Q3: How does Walmart’s conversational AI platform work?

Walmart’s Emerging Tech team leverages natural language understanding and processing, as well as large language models, to enable teams across the company to create their own conversational experiences at scale. The platform allows for rapid deployment and can be used in different countries without extensive language programming or expertise. Walmart’s scalable approach to conversational AI facilitates global expansion and customization to meet specific country needs.

Q4: What are some examples of Walmart’s use of conversational AI?

Walmart has developed Ask Sam, a conversational AI tool that increases the efficiency of store employees in areas like customer service and scheduling. Over two million employees use the app, resulting in improved productivity. Walmart also employs voice assistance and Text to Shop features, allowing customers to easily locate items and complete their shopping with minimal effort.

Q5: How does Walmart’s Emerging Tech team experiment and learn from their mistakes?

The Emerging Tech team at Walmart uses its retail expertise and data to experiment quickly and iterate on their conversational AI initiatives. They employ various technologies and NLP tools, such as large language models, to build conversational experiences and address retail challenges. Walmart’s approach allows them to adapt, learn, and refine their strategies to better serve customers and enhance the retail experience.

Q6: What challenges does Walmart face in operationalizing large language models?

According to Desiree Gosby, the vice president of emerging tech at Walmart, the company is working through challenges to ensure a trustworthy experience when operationalizing large language models. They are addressing issues like cost management and handling concerns such as hallucination. Walmart is committed to creating a reliable and efficient conversational AI experience for their customers.

Q7: How has Walmart’s conversational AI impacted their global operations?

Walmart’s scalable conversational AI platform has enabled them to expand its use beyond the United States. The Emerging Tech team successfully onboarded Walmart Chile operations in just a few weeks, resulting in a 20% increase in customer satisfaction. Walmart’s agility and willingness to try new approaches quickly have contributed to their ability to provide conversational experiences globally and adapt to specific country needs.

Q8: What is Walmart’s vision for conversational AI within the company?

Walmart aims to enable conversational experiences across its entire company, making every location and department “speak retail.” They believe in the potential of conversational AI to enhance the shopping experience for customers and employees at an unprecedented scale and speed. By leveraging their expertise, data, and retail insights, Walmart’s Emerging Tech team strives to transform the retail industry through the strategic implementation of conversational AI.

Featured Image Credit: Unsplash

Brad Anderson

Editor In Chief at ReadWrite

Brad is the editor overseeing contributed content at ReadWrite.com. He previously worked as an editor at PayPal and Crunchbase. You can reach him at brad at readwrite.com.

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