Innovation is in at Walmart, and Illinois stores are among those that are seeing or will soon see major technological changes dealing with how the world’s largest retailer conducts business.
In the past year, the company supported its more than 54,000 Illinois associates through increased training, new handheld apps, robotics and other technology designed to make their daily tasks easier.
“We’re excited to keep innovating in 2019 and continue making positive impacts on the way our customers shop,” said Walmart Vice President and Regional General Manager Dale Murphy. “We’re proud of the innovations we’ve made and want to build on the success of 2018 while constantly looking for better ways to serve our customers.”
The following are examples of the customer-focused innovations to be expanded in Illinois stores. Many are already in place, mostly in the Chicago area.
Grocery pickup and grocery delivery
- Where it’s been implemented, customers love the online grocery pickup option, the company said. It gives them the convenience of shopping online and the ease of quickly picking up groceries without having to leave their cars at no additional cost. Grocery delivery is also proving to be a hit. Customers shop online or through a mobile browser at Walmart.com/grocery.
- Currently more than 70 Illinois stores offer grocery pickup, with additional expansion planned for 2019. More than 25 stores across Chicago’s suburbs currently offer grocery delivery to 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. People can 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 they arrive at the store, customers can step up to the tower and scan the barcode sent to a smartphone.
- Currently more than 20 stores across Illinois are equipped with a pickup tower, 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 Illinois Supercenters can check out customers and provide a receipt, 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 Illinois stores.
“At a time when the retail industry is constantly evolving, we applaud innovations like Walmart’s that benefit both the customer and associates,” said Rob Karr, president and CEO of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association. “Retail employs one out of every five people in Illinois, so innovations like these play an important role in our state’s economy and future.”
Walmart continues to enable our associates to perform their daily tasks and serve customers in faster, easier ways. Over the past year associates in Illinois have been provided with the following new tools, behind the scenes and in the palm of their hands, to help make their jobs easier and customers experiences even better.
- The company has rolled out a suite of apps available to all our salesfloor associates across Illinois, placing critical information directly into the hands of those assisting customers every day. A few examples of these apps include:
o The 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.
o The Availability App: automates information about products that are out of stock and shows the associate specifically what time the out-of-stock occurred.
- Walmart will begin training all associates using immersive, virtual reality technology at every Walmart store in Illinois by the end of the fiscal year. This builds on the success of virtual reality training at Walmart’s nearly 200 Training Academies.
- The Walmart app now features a store map uniquely created for each Walmart store in Illinois, helping customers quickly and easily find everything from the hottest toys to everyday essentials. Just open the app in store or at home and search for the item – the map will show the item’s exact location and new in-store signing helps 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 seller. All they have to do is package the product they would like to return at home and bring it to the store where an associate will help print the return label and send the item back to the seller. All Illinois stores offer third-party returns.
- The company is testing a new system in its backrooms – 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, nine Supercenters throughout Illinois are among those testing the FAST technology.
PHOTO: An autonomous shelf scanner is now in place in 47 Walmart stores across the U.S., although none yet in Illinois. They’re programmed to help identify where in-stock levels are low, prices are wrong or labels are missing – which in turn provides associates with a real-time view of store inventory, helping them quickly identify the areas of the store that need the most attention.