(Editor’s note: This article has been updated with information provided by Walmart since it was initially published.)
Walmart is planning to open an in-store Intelligent Retail Lab, but not at its usual Store No. 8 tech incubator located near the company’s Bentonville, Ark. headquarters. The lab will operate inside a Levittown, N.Y. store, according to TechCrunch. Artificial intelligence (AI) will be used to empower associates and improve the shopper experience, for example by better calculating when stock needs to be replenished, identifying when items are on the wrong shelf and quickly reporting spills.
The retail giant’s Kepler team is responsible for putting together the lab, which includes installing hardware, software and other equipment. Walmart has been pushing the technological envelope through Store No. 8 and other sites with initiatives that include:
- A personal shopping service for “busy NYC moms” that enables shoppers to buy and research products via text messaging;
- Virtual shopping technology that lets customers browse a curated apartment with 70 branded and private label products;
- Computer vision and cashier-free checkout technology that could replicate the Amazon Go experience;
- A tech-focused Sam’s Club location in Dallas with an emphasis on mobile-enabled shopping, smart shopping lists that draw upon historical purchase data and augmented reality;
- An automated picking robot called Alphabot, designed to speed the fulfillment of online orders at a Walmart test store in New Hampshire; and
- The acquisition of Spatialand, a virtual reality (VR) platform and content studio, with the goal of expanding Walmart’s VR capabilities.
Many of these initiatives are based on improving convenience, a benefit that’s shared by the retail technologies seeing the most mainstream success, according to the Q3 Retail Innovation Radar report from HighStreet. Shoppers place a particularly high value on friction-reducing solutions such as mobile technology as well as fast and easy checkout.