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Pickup Towers, Robots and Walmart: Oh My

When it comes to retail, technology is king. In order to compete with both brick-and-mortar stores and online giants like Amazon, Walmart is developing ways to provide customers with the ease of online ordering combined with the convenience of local pickup. To that end, over the weekend, news broke about two of the company’s most intriguing technology projects: pickup towers and robots.

First, Walmart will add 500 Pickup Towers to its stores across the U.S. After the towers are set up, the company will have a total of 700 ready for use by the end of 2018. Since the program’s debut, Walmart customers have placed over 500,000 orders using the towers, with goods ranging from toothpaste to televisions, reported Fortune (April 6).

In a company blog post, Walmart noted that the Pickup Towers were a part of the company’s expanding technological improvements. It cited online grocery pickup, pickup discount, mobile express scan and go technology, grocery delivery services and a partnership with Google Express as ways it is expanding its technology portfolio. Additionally, it teased additional concepts similar in nature to the Pickup Tower that it is testing.

Additionally, will expand its aisle-scanning robot program to 50 stores. The robots, which have been undergoing testing at a handful of locations, autonomously navigate around stores and scan shelves with a tower fitted with cameras. After gathering and processing the data, the robot then informs a store associate about items that need to be restocked, missing tags or incorrect prices, reported Motley Fool (April 9).

The robots, created by Bossa Nova Robotics, could help Walmart in a big way. As per Motley Fool:

“Walmart says store employees have time to scan shelves only about twice a week. That monotonous task can be delegated to the machines, which Walmart says can do the work quicker and more accurately than humans. That frees up time for store associates to keep shelves stocked and help customers, which does make the company money.”

Time will tell how the technology investments pay off for Walmart, and you can be sure we’ll keep an eye on developing news from the company here in the Food Institute Blog.