Walmart Inc. has announced its plans to automate two-thirds of its stores by the end of 2026, with the aim of improving inventory accuracy and flow, reducing costs, and enhancing the overall shopping experience. The move is part of the company’s strategy to reengineer its supply chain and create a more intelligent and connected omnichannel network that will better meet customers’ needs. This involves a greater use of data, intelligent software, and automation.
Walmart has revamped its digital site as it experiences a boom in e-commerce. The company has invested in advanced technology and improved its online ordering facilities to streamline the ordering and fulfillment process. The retail giant has been expanding its grocery delivery and pickup services while digital sales have surged as customers increasingly shift towards online shopping.
Walmart Canada Teams Up with Shopify and Other Tech Firms to Expand Its Online Marketplace and Product Offerings
Walmart has also partnered with several technology firms, including Ottawa, Canada based Shopify, to expand its third-party marketplace and increase its product offerings. These efforts have helped Walmart compete with e-commerce giants like Amazon and reposition itself in retail. Walmart Canada’s flagship online store, Walmart.ca, is visited by more than 1.5 million customers daily.
While Walmart’s automation plans have been primarily announced for its U.S. operations, the company has also been implementing these strategies in Canada. In 2019, Walmart Canada announced plans to invest over CAD 200 million in renovating stores and upgrading its supply chain to better compete with e-commerce giants like Amazon.
Walmart Canada recently unveiled a new tech-enabled fulfillment center in Scarborough, Ontario, that uses automation and advanced technology to fulfill online orders more efficiently. The 450,000-square-foot facility is expected to create hundreds of jobs and features cutting-edge technology like automated storage and retrieval systems, conveyors, and robotics. The center will allow Walmart Canada to better meet the increasing demand for e-commerce and provide faster and more accurate order fulfillment for its customers.
Walmart has also been experimenting with new technologies like autonomous floor scrubbers, shelf-scanning robots, and autonomous delivery vehicles. These technologies have been implemented in select stores, with the aim of improving store operations, enhancing the customer experience, and freeing up employees’ time to focus on other tasks.
Walmart employs approximately 2.2 million associates worldwide. This includes approximately 1.5 million associates in the United States and around 90,000 associates in Canada. Walmart is the largest private employer in the world and one of the largest employers in the retail industry.
Like its U.S. operations, Walmart Canada’s automation plans will result in a reduction in physical labor for employees. However, the company has stated that it is committed to creating new job opportunities and upskilling its workforce to take on new roles as automation is implemented. Walmart Canada is one of the country’s largest employers, with those 90,000 associates working across its stores, distribution centers, and corporate offices.
While the shift towards automation may result in changes to employees’ roles, the company has emphasized that it will work to create new job opportunities and ensure that its workforce is equipped with the necessary skills to succeed in a rapidly changing retail landscape.
Automation helping retailers adjust to market conditions at record pace
Here are some specific examples of how automation in retail is helping retail companies:
- Automated Inventory Management: Retailers like Walmart and Target are using automation technology to streamline inventory management, which can reduce the need for human labor and improve accuracy. For example, Walmart uses robots to scan store shelves and track inventory levels, while Target uses automated systems to manage its online inventory.
- Robotic Order Fulfillment: Many retailers are using robots to pick and pack orders in their warehouses, which can improve efficiency and accuracy. Amazon, for example, uses robots to move products around its warehouses and pack orders, while Alibaba uses robots to deliver items to warehouse workers.
- Self-Checkout: Self-checkout kiosks are becoming increasingly common in retail stores, allowing customers to scan and pay for their items without the need for a cashier. Retailers like Walmart, Kroger, and Home Depot have implemented self-checkout kiosks in their stores, reducing the need for human cashiers and improving the overall checkout experience.
- Personalized Recommendations: Retailers are using automation technology to analyze customer data and provide personalized recommendations. For example, Amazon uses machine learning algorithms to analyze customers’ purchase history and browsing behavior to recommend products that they are likely to buy.
- Chatbots: Retailers are using chatbots to provide customer service and support. Chatbots can answer common questions, provide product recommendations, and help customers with their orders. Retailers like H&M and Sephora have implemented chatbots on their websites and social media platforms to improve customer engagement and support.