Walmart adds tech innovations


COLUMBUS — 2018 was an important year of innovation in Ohio Walmart stores, as the company made good on its promise to make shopping easier for Ohio customers through the rollout and expansion of several in-store innovations.

The company also supported its more than 51,000 Ohio associates through increased training, new handheld apps, robotics and other technology designed to make their daily tasks easier. Walmart will continue to lead retail innovation in 2019.

“In 2018 we offered Walmart customers throughout Ohio new innovations to help them save both time and money,” said Dann Moore, Walmart regional general manager for Ohio. “Our customers tell us that they like the changes, so in 2019 we will continue to improve the entire shopping experience inside our stores and online to be easier and more convenient.”

The following are examples of the customer-focused innovations launched or expanded in Ohio stores.

• Grocery pickup and delivery: An online grocery pickup option gives customers the convenience of shopping online and the ease of quickly picking up groceries without having to leave their cars at no additional cost. Currently, more than 60 Ohio stores offer grocery pickup, with additional expansion planned for 2019. Stores in the cities of Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Toledo currently offer grocery delivery to metro-area customers.

• Walmart pickup towers: Walmart pickup towers are 16 feet tall and function like high-tech vending machines, capable of fulfilling a customer’s online order in less than a minute. Customers choose from millions of items available on Walmart.com and select the “Pickup” option at checkout. When the item arrives at a local store, an associate loads it into the pickup tower and the customer will receive notification. When customers arrive at the store, they scan the barcodes sent to thier smartphones. Currently more than 30 stores across Ohio are equipped with pickup towers, with additional expansion planned for 2019.

• Check out with me: Walmart launched a new program called Check Out With Me. Outfitted with cellular devices and Bluetooth printers, associates at all Ohio supercenters can check out customers and provide receipts, via print, text or email, on the spot.

• Dotcom store app: The Dotcom Store App allows associates to help customers shop via Walmart.com, using a handheld device, when a customer requests an item that is not available in stores or is out of stock. Customers receive either a printed ticket or email/text with a barcode that allows them to pay at any register in-store using any payment method (cash, check, credit/debit and Walmart Pay). This technology is available in all Ohio stores.

• Handheld apps: The company has rolled out a suite of apps available to all salesfloor associates across Ohio, placing critical information directly into the hands of those assisting customers every day. A few examples of these apps include the following:

Price Change App: product price changes are categorized by aisle so associates receive them in the order they should be made, creating an efficient path through the store.

Availability App: automates information about products that are out of stock and shows the associate specifically what time the out-of-stock occurred.

VR training: As part of the company’s commitment to training and innovation, Walmart will begin training all associates using immersive, virtual reality technology at every Walmart store in Ohio by the end of the fiscal year. This builds on the success of virtual reality training at Walmart’s nearly 200 training academies.

• Store maps: The Walmart app now features a store map uniquely created for each Walmart store in Ohio, helping customers quickly and easily find everything from the hottest toys to every-day essentials. The map will show an item’s exact location and new in-store signs help customers quickly orient themselves within the store.

• Third-party returns in stores: Customers returning items sold by third-party sellers on Walmart.com can now drop off what they want to return at Walmart instead of having to coordinate directly with the sellers. All they have to do is package the product at home and take it to the store where an associate will help print the return label and send the item back to the seller. All Ohio stores offer third-party returns.

• FAST unloader: Today, product is unloaded as it arrives at the store through a complex, highly manual process that has seen little innovation over the last 20 years until now. Walmart is currently testing a new system known as FAST that automatically scans and sorts items off trucks based on priority and department, allowing associates to spend less time unloading in the back room and more time on the sales floor with customers. Currently, 17 supercenter stores in the Cleveland, Akron, Youngstown areas and Fremont are among those testing the FAST technology.