Walmart advances in futuristic tech with a bold step

U.S. retail giant partners with Microsoft, Zipline & Wing, sparking a shopping revolution for an extraordinary customer experience.

Walmart advances in futuristic tech with a bold step

A bird's-eye view of Dallas where Walmart will offer its drone delivery service

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In the era of Artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, industries and companies are adopting futuristic technologies due to their transformative impact on various facets of business operations. The U.S.-based multinational retail corporation, Walmart, has announced that it is taking major steps to enhance its customers' shopping experience. At the CES 2024 event in Las Vegas, U.S., aside from showcasing flashy gadgets, CES plays an important role in international trade. It provides a platform for international technology companies to make deals and showcase innovations that influence new products and trade patterns. It also focuses on solutions for sectors such as healthcare, education, and sustainable practices, promoting international trade in services and environmentally friendly technologies. In short, CES serves as a catalyst for global collaboration and technological advancements, influencing how economies interact and exchange goods and services in an increasingly interconnected world. At the event, Walmart highlighted its commitment to employing technology to create a shopping experience tailored to each customer's unique needs and preferences. This includes personalised recommendations, easy omnichannel shopping, and faster checkout options.

The company stated that, with the help of AI, it is learning its customers' purchasing patterns. Walmart has also joined hands with the leading U.S. tech giant Microsoft. The company is planning to further enhance the online shopping experience this year. At CES 2024, Walmart President and CEO Doug McMillon and Microsoft Chairman and CEO Satya Nadella unveiled new AI innovations that will benefit Walmart customers. The company is taking strides to elevate the digital shopping journey by incorporating generative AI into its search function. This enhancement aims to deliver customers a more helpful and intuitive browsing experience. Through a fusion of Walmart's proprietary data and technology and large language models, including those accessible through Microsoft Azure OpenAI Service, along with Walmart's retail-specific models, the revamped design offers a curated list of personalised items tailored to individual shopper preferences.

For example, a parent planning a birthday party for a child that loves unicorns. Instead of multiple searches for unicorn-themed balloons, napkins, streamers, etc., the parent can simply ask, "Help me plan a unicorn-themed party for my daughter," highlights the official release.

This is the most recent development in the partnership between Microsoft and Walmart. The businesses formed a strategic alliance in 2018 to advance Walmart's digital transformation. Microsoft has worked with Walmart on numerous cloud projects as one of its strategic and preferred cloud providers. The companies have worked together to accelerate innovation, from centralising, democratising, and optimising data to powering access to electronic health records at its in-store clinics, according to the release.

A Wing drone is handling deliveries for Walmart

Walmart has also partnered with drone delivery companies and the drone delivery service would include 1.8 million households in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area. The addition adds stores in 30 towns and municipalities to Walmart's existing Dallas-Fort Worth service. This could revolutionise how customers receive packages, making them faster and more convenient. During the CES 2024 event, Senior Vice President of Automation & Innovation, Stores & Supply Chain of Walmart, Prathibha Rajashekhar said that Walmart has operated 37 drone delivery hubs across seven states in the U.S. during which the company has completed 20,000 customer deliveries, which is more than any retailer.

The company will soon start its drone delivery service in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area and by the end of next year, the company is planning to provide access to 75 % of the population of the DFW. The delivery radius spans 10 miles, and deliveries can be accomplished in as fast as 10 minutes, said Prathibha.

The company has collaborated with leading drone manufacturers and operators of the U.S. – Zipline, and Wing. This is the first time a U.S. retailer has offered drone delivery to so many households in a single market, said Prathibha.

A Zipline drone is delivering a Walmart package

Zipline has been working with Walmart in Pea Ridge, Arkansas, since 2021 to deliver items from the store to customers' homes. The enterprise delivery platform used for this collaboration is designed for long-range flights. Zipline’s average flight time is about 3 minutes per order, according to an official release by Zipline.

The company claims that it has flown more than 60 million commercial autonomous miles and completed almost 900,000 commercial autonomous deliveries. It has also flown the longest-range drone delivery flights in the U.S.

In August 2023, Wing and Walmart launched service together at two locations in DFW - reaching 60,000 homes via drone delivery Wing has been providing services to customers located within a 6-mile radius from nests in Frisco and Lewisville, as per the official release.“In 2022, Wing picked Frisco to launch its first commercial drone delivery service in a major U.S. metro area. We consider our entire community an innovation lab and our residents embrace this service. Nowadays, Wing is more than a novelty in Frisco. The drone delivery service has evolved into a welcome, daily convenience for essentials like recipe ingredients, eggs, limes, or over-the-counter medicines. The ease and efficiency of Wing’s drone delivery service enhances quality of life,” said City of Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney. Both Zipline and Wings have 135 certifications and are approved by the FAA to provide the drone delivery service.

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