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We recently visited Walmart’s Supercenter in Rogers, Arkansas. As one of its key locations for testing new initiatives, the store features the retailer’s pharmacy of the future concept.

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Walmart is using artificial intelligence (AI) to improve the self-checkout experience at its US stores.

Reducing error rates

As reported in Business Insider, Walmart has equipped self-checkouts in around 1,000 Supercenters in the US with AI technology which has helped it to improve the accuracy of customer scans and reduce error rates. In partnership with technology company, Everseen, the checkouts help to identify when products have been mis-scanned. Overhead cameras help to compare customer baskets with scanning data and identify unusual scanning movements. Any potential issues are flagged to an app accessed by a checkout host.

Source: IGD Research

Improving scanning rates

This technology also helps to overcome one of the key customer pinch-points of self-checkouts, namely unexpected items in the bagging area. Most self-checkout systems use a scale in the bagging area to compare what’s being scanned and what is bagged. Everseen’s technology provides retailers with the opportunity to remove the scale, enabling faster scan rates and lower incidents of customer errors, which often require store intervention to resolve.

Source: IGD Research

Innovating at the front-end to drive impulse sales

As Walmart has expanded the number of self-checkouts, with many stores featuring two banks of self-checkouts, it has rolled-out a new configuration for impulse products. Incorporating chilled soft drinks, confectionery, healthcare and non-food items, this part of the store has been re-designed to help drive sales of items which perform strongly within its conventional checkout lanes. The roll-out of self-checkouts in many retailers has often led to reduced space for these types of products, or less opportunity for customers to purchase. Branded product suppliers have been focusing on developing more creative solutions, including enhanced displays such as the latest solution at Walmart.

Source: IGD Research

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Rakuten and Seiyu will deliver products from the Seiyu LIVIN Yokosuka Store in Yokosuka City, Kanagawa Prefecture, to visitors in Sarushima via drones.

Drone service to launch on 4 July 2019

Starting on 4 July 2019, the new initiative will service Sarushima, a popular sightseeing destination and the only uninhabited island in Tokyo Bay. It will run for around three months, and Rakuten Drones will ground at a landing port built on Sarushima. To use the service, visitors will need to download the Rakuten Drone app onto their smartphone and place orders through the app. 

A range of approx. 400 products will be available to order, including fresh produce for barbecues, beverages and first-aid products. This will be supplied by the Seiyu LIVIN Yokosuka Store located on the shore opposite the island.

Our view

The service, once in operation, will also provide invaluable knowledge on the capabilities of drone deliveries for disaster relief, how to support people with limited access to shopping in certain areas of Yokosuka and whether it can be rolled out to other regions. This is not the first time Rakuten has turned to drones for delivery solutions in Japan. It has been offering the service since 2016, and signed an agreement with JD.com to strengthen last-mile delivery earlier this year.

Accelerating innovation to drive convenience

Rakuten’s ??Managing Executive Officer, Koji Ando, said, “We are very happy to expand our collaboration with Seiyu on Rakuten Ichiba and Rakuten Seiyu Netsuper to include the field of drone logistics […] with this service, we aim to offer customers an innovative, advanced shopping experience in which products they order will be delivered by drone. Based on this initiative, we will accelerate innovation so that more people can experience the convenience of drone delivery."

Strengthening existing partnership

Seiyu’s Executive Senior Vice President of EC Division, Tamae Takeda, said, "Seiyu has also been looking into drone deliveries for our online supermarket, and we are very excited to work with Rakuten in this field. In the future, through Rakuten Seiyu Netsuper, which we jointly operate with Rakuten, we want to contribute to enriching the lives of more customers by delivering high-quality products at low prices to everyone, including those who have difficulty shopping at stores."
 

We look at the latest developments and initiatives within Walmart’s US ecommerce business, including a new subscription-based programme for grocery deliveries.

Testing subscription-based delivery programme

Walmart is testing a new programme, ‘Delivery Unlimited’ in a small number of markets. For an annual fee of $98, or $12.95 monthly, customers can receive unlimited grocery delivery orders. This service competes with Amazon’s Prime programme and Target’s Shipt membership-based, programme for grocery delivery. This type of service can be a useful tool in locking-in customer loyalty. Walmart’s UK-based business, Asda, has offered a similar ‘Delivery Pass’ service for several years.

Integrating Jet.com into core ecommerce operation

Walmart is integrating the Jet.com business it acquired in 2016 into its core ecommerce operations. Many aspects of the businesses have previously been integrated, enabling the broader business to optimise Jet’s ‘smart cart’ technology. This has enabled the wider business to launch programmes such as free two-day and next day free shipping. Last year, the Jet business was repositioned to appeal more to consumers in urban locations and paved the way for the launch of services such as Jet Black, a personalised, text-based shopping service. Walmart will now merge other Jet.com teams, including retail, marketing, technology and analytics into its main ecommerce business.

Source: Walmart

The strategy and management of Jet will sit with Kieran Shanahan, who will continue to oversee food, consumables and health and wellness for Walmart Ecommerce. Simon Belsham, Jet.com’s President, will leave the business in August.

Set to launch in-home delivery

These developments come as Walmart gets set to launch a new ‘InHome’ service which will enable online grocery customers to have their orders delivered directly into their homes, including their fridges and freezers. The order will be picked by the retailer’s store associates, in line with its current online grocery pickup model, before being handed off to a specially trained associate to complete the delivery. The launch opens-up further possibilities for the service. Soon after it goes live, customers will be able to return non-food items by leaving them in the home for the delivery associate to pickup. Walmart is also looking at opportunities to deliver non-food items without the usual delivery packaging.

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