Walmart is reportedly working on several new high tech initiatives, as it continues to battle Amazon in both the physical and digital retail arenas.
As first reported by Recode, Walmart is testing a service designed for “busy NYC moms,” that involves getting personalized recommendations and purchasing items quickly through text messages. The project is called Code Eight, and it is part of Walmart’s Store No. 8, the retail giant’s innovation hub.
Recode reports that items purchased through the new initiative would include one- and two-day delivery, and Walmart would pick up return items at a customer’s home or apartment.
Walmart has acknowledged Code Eight in the past, when it brought in Jennifer Fleiss of clothing rental startup Rent the Runway to run it, but has otherwise been quiet about it.
Store No. 8 has another secretive intiative in the works, this one called Project Kepler. According to a job posting for a computer vision engineer based in Dublin, Ireland, the intiative’s “mission is to create step change in-store experiences, leveraging emerging technology to help define and deliver on evolving customer expectations.” Sources tell Recode that one goal of the project is to build a new store model without checkout lines or cashiers, similar to the Amazon Go concept, which was first announced close to a year ago and is still being tested.
This isn’t the first case of Walmart looking for ways to speed up the checkout process using technology. Walmart’s “Scan & Go” app allows shoppers to scan barcodes of items they want to purchase and then click a button to pay using their smartphones. They simply have to show a digital receipt to a Walmart greeter on their way out. Shoppers without smartphones can use hand-held scanners provided in-store.
These moves, taken together with some of Walmart’s other recent intiatives, show that the world’s largest company is serious about online shopping and infusing technology into its brick-and-mortar stores. The driving force behind many of these moves to appeal to new customer bases is reportedly Marc Lore, the Jet.com CEO who came on board when Walmart bought the e-commerce company last year for $3.3 billion.
Walmart is deploying approximately 100 “automated pickup towers” in stores across the U.S., where customers can quickly pick up orders they made online. It is testing a service where customers can have their food delivered to their homes and put away in the refrigerator.
Walmart has teamed up with Google to let customers make Walmart purchases through Google Express, an online marketplace where customers can purchase and set up delivery from stores. Walmart items will also be available through the Google Assistant and Google Home smart speaker.