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Innovating Retail: Walmart Global Tech’s Vision and the Future of Shopping



CXOToday has engaged in an exclusive interview with Rajiv Bhuta, VP – Product Management, Walmart Global Tech


  1. What is Walmart Global Tech’s vision? How is technology supporting customers, members and associates?   

We are a people-led, tech-powered omnichannel retailer and are deeply committed to our purpose of helping people save money and live better. Our customers, members and associates have always been at the heart of everything that we do and when it comes to technology, we’re excited about our roadmap and the possibilities ahead.  Our tech strategy is grounded in the belief that it should elevate customer experiences, advance careers and strengthen our business—all of which fuels our mission to improve the lives of people, across the globe.


  1. Which trends, according to you, are defining the future of retail? What is Walmart’s role in this journey?   

The retail landscape is transforming rapidly. Today, customers are not concerned about the ‘channel’ they use to shop. They seamlessly navigate between platforms and spaces. The online and offline worlds have blended more than ever. In such a scenario, our goal is to constantly eliminate friction from every customer touchpoint—from how they find an item, make a transaction to how they actually receive products in their hands (or sometimes even in their refrigerators)! We call it Adaptive Retail—a single, unified retail experience where the best aspect of any one channel lends itself to the other. Essentially, a customer should be able to experience the perks of shopping online at the store—no lines, personalization and easy search. And while shopping online, everything great about the store—such as try-ons, customer service and instant purchases, should be accessible as well.

For instance, our ‘Shop with Friends’ feature is making social shopping a reality, digitally. Customers can create virtual outfits and send them to their friends for feedback. At Sam’s Club, our computer vision technology is helping members skip lines and exit more conveniently. It captures images of shopping carts and verifies payment for all items in real time.


  1. How have customer preferences evolved in the retail industry? 

People are tech savvy. They enjoy exploring technologies that can help them do everyday tasks in a more convenient, fun and innovative way. Fundamentally, we have witnessed a transformation across three core aspects of retail: discovery, purchase and receive. With customers becoming channel-agnostic, people make shopping decisions just about anywhere— on their smartphones, in a store or on their smartphones while at the store. With these changing patterns, ‘Adaptive Retail’ is the thread that weaves all these experiences together—making shopping more customer-centric, interconnected and frictionless.


  1. Can you talk about Walmart’s latest GenAI initiative and how is it serving the organization’s purpose?

We’ve always believed in the power of GenAI to transform experiences for our customers and members. Most recently, we launched our ‘GenAI-powered Search’—an enhanced experience that enables customers to search by specific use cases, generating more relevant and cross-category results. Imagine organizing a football viewing party without having to look for every single item individually—be it chips, soft drinks, bowls or even a 90-inch TV. All you would need to do is type your requirement in simple, natural language— “Help me plan a football watch party”. With only a single prompt, our search would instantly generate all the relevant products. No need to worry about cracking the right queries, keywords for each item or spending a significant amount of time scrolling and tapping. With these benefits, our search gives precious time back to our customers and ultimately contributes to our purpose of helping people live better.


  1. How does the ‘GenAI Search’ understand what customers are looking for, resulting in more relevant search results? What advantages does GenAI-powered search offer over traditional search methods?   

As the largest retailer in the world, the scale of our data is unmatched. We serve our customers and members in more ways than anyone else—so we understand them better than anyone else. This intelligence powers our AI solutions. GenAI Search is a combination of our Walmart proprietary data and technology and Large Language Models (LLMs), including retail-specific models built by Walmart. Our feature follows the ‘Mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive (MECE)’ principle that creates a comprehensive product offering, covering all possible needs without gaps or overlaps. To further refine results and contextualize information, it also considers a wide array of factors such as location, search history and more. So, when a customer opts to search with a specific use case, our system is equipped to generate more relevant and cross-category results, as compared to a traditional search engine.


  1. What are Walmart Global Tech engineers doing differently than other retailers to keep pace with changing customer needs and preferences?

At Walmart, it is all about the customer. What drives us as technologists is building the right systems which translate into experiences that exceed customer expectations. Fortunately for us, Walmart has a legacy like no other. Our retail-tech intelligence has been accumulated from serving people across the globe, for more than six decades. In conjunction with this, we invest heavily in powering our retail infrastructure with robust systems in the backend—be it supply chain that is orchestrating goods or AI/ML that is powering personalization. Our engineers are constantly innovating to deliver unique experiences that enhance every stage of a customer’s journey.

While technology fuels our digital transformation, people are why we innovate. We stay committed to helping our associates realize their true potential through limitless learning and tech capability development. For instance, our internal learning portal, Global Tech Academy, offers training, certification and formal education to associates in tech. At the same time, our partnership with premier academic institutes provides exclusive learning experiences for our high performers.


  1. How is AI transforming the way your associates work?  

As a people-first business, we’ve always believed that the best way to inspire innovation is by helping our people reach their true potential. Technology has been vital in bringing this to life. We are deeply focused on investing in the right technologies for our associates, just as we do for our customers and members. The goal is to empower our teams to be more productive so that they can focus on things that matter the most—such as generating creative ideas and building relationships. AI and GenAI have been transformational in this journey to help our associates be more effective at work.

For instance, ‘VizPick’ is an inventory management process that uses Augmented Reality (AR) on a smartphone to simplify backroom inventory management. We also launched ‘Sidekick’—a product that allows a store associate to focus on the next best thing they need to do. The store is a complex environment with multiple tasks demanding attention at the same time. AI not only identifies a suitable associate for a specific task but also assigns the task to them.


  1. How can organizations ensure using AI responsibly? 

Technology is certainly evolving faster than ever and it’s important that we set the bar high for using tech responsibly. At Walmart, no matter what changes around us, our purpose and values remain constant. It is important for us to know, that everyone we serve feels confident and comfortable with the way we use technology. To that end, we announced the Walmart Responsible AI Pledge in 2023. The pledge has been designed around six commitments that underline how customers, members and associates can expect us to use AI responsibly: Transparency, Security, Privacy, Fairness, Accountability and Customer-centricity. This initiative is a proud moment and a significant step forward in paving the way for ethical AI in retail, and beyond.

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