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BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Walmart has "started to invent the future of shopping again," as it makes use of technology to empower associates and improve the customer experience, according to President and CEO Doug McMillon, who spoke at Walmart's 47th Annual Shareholders' Meeting on June 2.
"Together, we're building a new Walmart," McMillon told 14,000-plus associates at Bud Walton Arena at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark. "We're going to make shopping with us faster, easier and more enjoyable. We'll do more than just save customers money and you, our associates, will make the difference. Looking ahead, we will compete with technology, but win with people. We will be people-led and tech-empowered."
Of the company's vision for the future, McMillon said that Walmart is "making every day easier for busy families and we're using new ways of working to do it." This includes a program being tested in which store associates deliver items to customers; digital endless-aisle shopping in stores; automated pickup towers in stores for online orders; pickup stations in store parking lots; robotics and image analytics to scan aisles for item availability and shelf presentation; and machine learning and more advanced algorithms in pricing systems.
Delivery by Walmart associates "creates a special win-win-win for customers, associates and the business," the company said. Associates can choose whether to opt in and earn extra money on their existing drive home. If they do, Walmart's technology allows them to set preferences on how many packages they can deliver, the size and weight limits of those packages and which days they're able to make deliveries after work. Packages are also allocated based on minimizing the collective distance associates need to travel off of their commute to make a delivery. The program is being tested in two New Jersey stores and one in northwest Arkansas.
Other initiatives aim to create a better working experience for associates and shopping experience for customers, including free two-day shipping on more than two million items, with no membership fee; a discount for customers picking up online orders in stores; grocery pickup in many markets around the world, and delivery from stores in some; and Jet Fresh delivery, which provides delivery of fresh groceries to homes in one to two days.
In keeping with this strategy, Walmart is currently testing an automated 20-foot-by-80-foot grocery kiosk in the parking lot of an Oklahoma City supercenter that allows customers who place orders online to easily pick up their groceries through an automated process, reported The Oklahoman.
The kiosk is capable of fulfilling hundreds of orders in a day and gives customers another option they can use to save time, according to company spokesman Scott Markley. "Especially for busy families with kids, grocery shopping used to take a couple of hours on the weekend," he said.
Consumers can order more than 30,000 items, including fresh produce, meats, dairy products and organic groceries, for the same price they cost in the store, and then pick them up for free 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The minimum purchase is $30.
Meanwhile, a pickup tower, which enables online purchasers of general merchandise to retrieve their orders in a vending-machine type of format, is being tested in five stores in Bentonville, Detroit, Houston, Atlanta and Raleigh, N.C.
McMillon urged associates to "be lifelong learners," noting that despite the company's adoption of the latest technological advances, "the secret to our success will always be our people."
To that end, the company is creating new jobs, including data scientists, machine-learning engineers and mobile app developers.
Also on the agenda during McMillon's talk was Walmart's commitment to give back to the communities it serves, through such initiatives as pledges to source $20 billion from women-owned businesses — a goal that was achieved last year — and to source $250 billion in products that support American jobs over a 10-year period. McMillon also mentioned projects to source more local and sustainable products and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the company's supply chain by one gigaton by 2030.
"Our world is increasingly transparent and we're out to earn trust," McMillon said. "When people shine a light on Walmart and see our decisions — the jobs we create, the activities in our supply chain — we want them to like what they see."
The annual meeting included shareholder voting results, including that shareholders approved the election of each of Walmart's 11 director nominees. Shareholders also voted in favor of a nonbinding advisory resolution to establish the frequency of one year for future advisory shareholder votes to approve the compensation of Walmart's named executive officers; approved, on a nonbinding, advisory basis, the compensation of the company's named executive officers described in its 2017 proxy statement; and ratified the appointment of Ernst & Young LLP as Walmart's independent accounting firm.
More information and a replay of the event are available at www.WalmartShareholders.com.
Bentonville-based Walmart has more 11,539 stores under 63 banners in 28 countries and e-commerce websites in 11 countries.