How Walmart sees the supermarket of the future

Walmart is the largest and most profitable supermarket chain in the world. But in recent years, she has fallen into the shadow of her very active competitor, Amazon, a leader in the creation of new purchasing and delivery technologies. Recently, for example, he launched the world's first supermarket without cash registers and cashiers .

As a result, among young people, Walmart in America gained a reputation as an “old man,” to put it mildly, not a very advanced company. She is rich, this is the largest retailer on the planet, but at the same time, the company spends almost no money on the development of its technologies. The same cash desks, shelves and carts as twenty years ago. Now that has to change. The other day, Walmart has filed several dozen technology patents that will enable it to transform the supermarket. Among them are smart shopping baskets and assistant drones that help people with shopping.

Experts say the company wants to change its image and how its customers buy goods. Amazon has already "staked out" supermarkets without cashiers, but Walmart still has ways to show that it also has gunpowder in the flocks. If she begins to install new systems in her gigantic supermarket chain (4,700 in the United States alone!), Other companies will also have to pull themselves up.

Walmart’s first application concerns the development of a sensory system capable of endowing shopping carts and shopping baskets with “intelligence” and making them able to communicate with mobile devices. It sounds crazy, but in fact, such a system could be very useful for the buyer. A trolley / basket is the only thing a customer takes with him in a supermarket. It is unlikely that anyone will want to take with him some device each time before starting to buy, and then rent it separately. So, if this device is imperceptibly built into the baskets themselves - no one will have to retrain!

Further, the "smart cart" will help the buyer to find items at a discount, or will pick in front of a specific department. Or send information about the goods to the smartphone. And that means even more sales.

Walmart Patent

Walmart also patented a similar system to the one used by Amazon Go - distinguishing customers by their clothes to keep track of shoplifting. She also wants to develop a system for recognizing stock levels of products in a warehouse. Walmart annually loses billions of dollars on the fact that managers order goods at the wrong time and not in the volumes that are needed. The system (cameras that read goods, and the program) will help to ensure that there are always goods on the shelves, so that they do not have time to deteriorate. Human error can be avoided.

Walmart also now has a patent for specific drones that will help customers in the store. It describes a method by which a drone can be called up at any time through a mobile device (smartphone, tablet, watch). If suddenly a buyer needs help, a drone with all the information will fly right there. You can find out from him, for example, the expiration date of a particular product, or ask the way to the thing that you want to buy (and the drone will lead you there). And store employees will be able to call a drone to check prices and other information if a misunderstanding arises.

Another technology will determine the things put in the container. Obviously, this is the answer to Amazon's box office supermarkets, and to some extent even more user-friendly. At Amazon Go, customers on the street just can't get in and buy something: they must first register so that they can pay bills through an online account. Walmart does not have this step. Plus, if Amazon Go now has problems when buying an entire family or several friends, then Walmart will have no questions for such purchases: everything that is put in the basket or cart is paid from one account. And then things will not need to be “bogged down” at the checkout, they are all counted, just hold a card to confirm the transaction.

An application was also registered for a compact system consisting of sensors, a processor and a communication interface. Walmart will use it to automatically collect information about trucks carrying goods. She will check the temperature in the body, as well as the weight of the machine before and after delivery - to prevent overloading or to prevent half-empty cars from entering the line.

Patents are very detailed, but it is likely that not all technologies will reach the implementation stage. But experts say Walmart has long wanted to show Amazon that it will not give up without a fight. To invest several billion in potentially effective technologies for her is a drop in the ocean if this helps to contain the ardor of her main competitor. Since 2017, the company went into the stage of an aggressive offensive, which began with the redesign of its own website and a greater focus on the online audience. In December, she began selling her own “ meal kits” ) with Moroccan, Spanish, Mexican and other dishes, - in response to similar sets that became popular on Amazon a few months before. And to compete with the reader, Kindle Walmart entered into an exclusive contract with the Japanese company Rakuten for the supply of similar readers in the United States.

Walmart will not give up without a fight. In 2017, its online sales grew by 23%, and revenue from online businesses - by 44%. This is still a little, less than 10% of all Walmart sales. One of the company's former employees said in an interview with The Verge that even these figures are lies. Like, in fact, the company has to inflate them in order to "win the online war at all costs." Be that as it may, it’s nice to know that even a “starter” like Walmart is going to spend serious money on new developments.

By the way, one of these technologies, which has already reached their offline supermarkets, is moving robotic scanners. They were launched in 50 stores in California in 2017, and now they work in several hundred locations. Scan the shelves, see if you need to replenish stocks, and check that all prices are correct and all products are correctly labeled.

Meanwhile, Amazon teaches drones to obey gestures - to create their future, in which autonomous robots deliver goods to the doorsteps of Americans, and people don’t even need to go grocery shopping. The other day, she approved the application , and the company received a patent for a gesture control system for voice and drones. The idea is that a person can interact with a drone, showing where to put the goods.

Real illustration from Amazon patent

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