Virtual reality may have another place in retail, as the world’s largest retailer plans to use it for employee training.
Walmart recently tested VR integration at a number of its employee training facilities in the U.S. and plans to expand the capability.
The immersive training experiences, currently in use at 30 Walmart Academies, aim to prepare employees for scenarios ranging from everyday show-floor maintenance to Black Friday rushes.
Walmart Academies are programs between two and six weeks long designed to teach employees retail fundamentals and area specific skills.
One of the benefits of using VR is the ability to run through in-store scenarios without affecting customers, according to Beth Harris, senior manager of internal communications at Walmart.
“VR allows associates to experience a lifelike store environment to experiment, learn and handle difficult situations without the need to recreate disruptive incidents or disturb the customer’s shopping experience,” Harris wrote in a blog post about the initiative. “It’s helpful for associates to see mistakes in a virtual environment and know how to deal with them before they experience it in real life and don’t know what to do.”
In addition to general content flexibility, Walmart says the use of virtual reality yielded better results.
Overall retention of the information taught was higher in associates who used VR, compared to those who did not. As a result, Walmart plans to add VR training to every Academy location by the end of this year.
The immersive content and experiences are handled by Strivr Labs, a company that initially focused its efforts on using VR to improve professional athletes’ performance. Strivr Labs plans to expand its scope into retail training and other similar markets.
Strivr Labs says it worked with Walmart on the training for about nine months.
Walmart has launched 100 Academy locations since the initiative was introduced last year and plans to double that number by 2018. More than 225,000 employees are expected to complete a program by the end of this year. More than 140,000 will have experienced VR training, according to Walmart.