How Walmart Is Adding Generative AI To Shopping Tech

While it’s still too early to tell which retailers will make the best use of new generative AI technology, Walmart is offering a peek at what it’s got planned. The company has put its “My Assistant” app into the hands of 50,000 employees, who are helping develop options designed to enrich shopping experiences.

Those include AI queries within shopping searches, like “help me plan a themed birthday party.”

The app will allow people to enter specific questions directly into the search bar. Another tool focuses on interior design, enabling users to experiment with new looks with AR and photography.

Walmart believes that by setting all employees loose in AI land, the company will develop more innovative retail solutions than if it restricted experimentation.

A Walmart spokesperson tells Marketing Daily the Walmart GenAI Playground enables all associates to experiment with various GenAI models.



“GenAI has limitations,” she adds in her email. “It lacks judgment, has a limited understanding of context and is only as good as the data it’s trained on. For outside-of-the-box, truly brand-new thinking, that’s what humans are good at. We believe the key to unlocking transformation lies in the creativity and innovation of our associates.”

She says the company thinks the scale of what it can accomplish by putting a simple, easy-to-use GenAI tool in the hands of 50,000 individuals, versus limiting its use, “will revolutionize the way we are solving problems for customers, members and associates.”

Walmart recently demoed its efforts for TechCrunch, which reports the retailer isn’t ready to commit to a single model or vendor.

Walmart is still experimenting to figure out ways AI can be most helpful. For instance, in the current iteration of the decorating app, users must upload a photo of a room. It then captures the image of each item, and AI can rearrange existing pieces of furniture, offering suggestions on what to keep and what to update, all while following specific budgets.

While retailers like Walmart have long used AI to build powerful shopping algorithms, these are still early days in the most effective use of generative technology. And many retailers are struggling to hire fast enough to compete in the tech talent wars.

Similarly, there’s no consensus yet about where that talent should fit into retailers’ organizations as they interact with tech, data, customer experience and merchandising departments.

For now, the spokesperson says Walmart doesn’t think AI should be confined to a single department. “We believe that AI is a cross-functional, collaborative effort,” she says, “that brings together the expertise and creativity of individuals from diverse backgrounds and departments.”

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