Walmart Expands Rollout of Generative AI Search on App

Allows Shoppers to Search for Themes Instead of Items
Walmart sign
(Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg News)

[Stay on top of transportation news: Get TTNews in your inbox.]

Walmart Inc. opened up access to a generative artificial intelligence tool that allows shoppers to search for products by specific use cases rather than look up one item at a time.

The technology is now available for use on the Walmart app on Apple Inc.’s iOS mobile operating system, the world’s largest retailer said in a statement Jan. 9 at CES 2024 in Las Vegas. Walmart previously released the tool as a beta test in November, when Bloomberg Television reviewed it.

The search using generative AI — a technology that allows users to more quickly create text, speech and images — lets a shopper look for a specific theme or idea and returns products and items across a range of relevant categories. Asking for help with a football watch party, for example, could yield recommendations for chips, wings, drinks and a widescreen TV.

The tool is built using a range of large language models, including Microsoft Corp.’s Azure OpenAI Service. The cloud-based platform offers OpenAI’s models to Microsoft’s commercial customers.

Walmart and other U.S. retailers have been expanding generative AI tools, seeking to engage better with customers and drive growth.

Growth Engine

Walmart’s broader online business has been a growth engine, outpacing those of many other retailers. The Bentonville, Ark.-based company has been investing in automation at warehouses and revamped its website and app last year, though it cut jobs at e-commerce hubs. While the retail giant’s overall sales have been rising, it has been more cautious recently about consumer spending amid high interest rates and declining savings.

The big-box company is exhibiting on the CES showroom floor for the first time with a 10,000-square-foot display. CEO Doug McMillon and other Walmart executives delivered a keynote speech Jan. 9 on the technology efforts, with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella joining McMillon for part of the session.

CES logo 2024

Walmart also touted a global rollout of a generative AI tool for its workforce. Introduced in August, My Assistant can help Walmart staff generate document drafts and summarize large documents. The retailer will make the tool available in 11 countries, in the native languages for those markets.

Sam’s Club, Walmart’s membership warehouse chain and rival to Costco Wholesale Corp., demonstrated an AI and computer-vision technology to scan shoppers’ carts as they leave the store. The system compares a cart’s contents against the transaction receipt, eliminating the need for human checks at the door.

Aside from AI and software, Walmart also is expanding its technology footprint in the real world. The company is boosting its drone deliveries to 1.8 million additional households in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The expanded service, employing tech from drone companies Wing and Zipline, will now cover 75% of the metropolitan area and is up from serving just 60,000 homes when it launched in August.

Walmart Inc. ranks No. 2 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest private carriers in North America.

Want more news? Listen to today's daily briefing below or go here for more info: