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Smart Moves: How Walmart and Sam’s Club Use AI

Artificial intelligence used to help improve shopping experience

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Interior of a Sam’s Club in Mankato, Minn. Photo: Shutterstock, Jeff Bukowski

Seemingly lost amid the recent explosion of excitement (and dismay, in some quarters) about the transformational potential of the ChatGPT chatbot is the fact that some companies have been using artificial intelligence (AI) for years. One such business in the retail sector is Walmart, whose roughly 4700 Walmart stores and 600 Sam’s Clubs in the U.S. have been deploying AI and machine learning for some time now to improve the customer and employee experiences alike, Anshu Bhardwaj, the retail giant’s Senior VP of Technology Strategy and Commercialization told CNBC.

At warehouse chain Sam’s Club, the membership model provides the company with huge amounts of data about what members’ preferences. ”[Customers] are generating all these breadcrumbs about what they like and want and that’s allowing us to make the shopping experience better,” she said.

One way to do that is to make sure the items they want to buy are in stock. At Sam’s, that means keeping track of roughly 6,000 items stacked on shelves in warehouse stores that average 136,000 square feet.

Sam’s is using floor scrubbers to do just that. As they travel around the stores, keeping floors clean, they’re also capturing real-time images of every item in the store.

This is where AI and machine learning comes in. Bhardwaj said the company has trained its algorithms to discern the different brands and their inventory positions, with more than 95 percent accuracy. When a product gets to a pre-determined level, the stock room is automatically alerted so that the item is always available.

AI also powers Walmart’s shopping app. For example, if a customer orders Pampers on the app, it can now recognize when this customer last ordered the product and whether the size is still appropriate.

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Even though Walmart has been on its AI journey for years, the goal has remained the same, Bhardwaj said: Find better ways to figure out what the customer wants to buy and how best to get it to them.

Click here for the full CNBC article.

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