Jan 9, 2024 - Business

Walmart powers up generative AI and AR for new shopping features

Illustration of a hand cursor with the Walmart logo above the index finger.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Walmart is digging deeper into the two biggest tech trends of the moment: generative AI and augmented reality.

Driving the news: The mega-retailer announced Tuesday afternoon during CES that its latest iOS app features generative AI-powered search.

  • Customers can now view a list of products across different categories by typing in an activity, such as a "football watch party," versus having to hunt for specific items one at a time, like "Doritos" and then "napkins."
  • The company also previewed an upcoming AI feature for its InHome delivery service. The new feature can place orders for delivery into a customers' home fridge (or pantry) as it predicts certain household items may be running low.
  • Plus, Walmart unveiled a new augmented reality feature that lets customers solicit feedback from friends about potential clothing purchases through various mobile sharing apps.
  • Lastly, the company announced an expansion of its drone delivery program in the Dallas-Fort Worth area using Wing and Zipline drones.

Zoom in: Walmart execs say they hope A.I. can be especially useful in helping customers find what they are looking for, noting that they see shopping-related search as a not-yet-solved problem.

  • AI is also seen helping the company's international unit as the company localizes its sites in various languages.
  • Lastly, true to its cost-conscious nature, Walmart has designed many of its AI systems to work with a wide range of third-party models so they can go with whichever option is most cost-efficient at the time.

Be smart: A lot of traditional search depends on a person knowing the right keyword to search, while generative AI is already proving to be better at helping understand user intent — what it is a person really wants.

What they're saying: Sravana Karnati, CTO of Walmart International, told Axios last year that generative AI should also be able help with personalization, both in selecting products and displaying them in a compelling way.

  • "Think of it as a store that is constructed for the customer on the fly," Karnati said. "It offers real opportunities for us to up the game in the very near future.

The big picture: Walmart wants to take advantage of this week's global tech conference in Las Vegas to show off its tech chops.

  • While the company is of course hoping the tools will make its online shopping platforms and experiences more useful, it also needs to show potential employees and Wall Street that it's been working on the same big innovations that have been driving the labor market and stock market.

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