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How Walmart is trying to reinvent in-store shopping to win Black Friday

Although we may be doing an increasing amount of shopping online, a vast majority of retail still occurs in the…

Although we may be doing an increasing amount of shopping online, a vast majority of retail still occurs in the real world – and no event better emphasizes that fact than Black Friday, the annual holiday shopping extravaganza that consumes US retailers every Thanksgiving. Last year, Black Friday generated almost $ 8 billion in sales, according to Adobe Analytics. Det er det beste tidspunktet for å få rabatter på dyre elektronik som 4K TVs, video spillkonsoller og laptops, mens scorings eller nye gadgetkategorier som smarte højttalere og streaming set-top boxes har slashed priser i hopene de får scooped up as holiday gifts.

Yet with so many deals moving online as retailers blur the lines between Black Friday and Cyber ​​Monday, there’s a growing need to try to improve the in-store experience. Mange forhandlere, som nu føles tunge konkurrenter fra Amazon’s dominerende e-handelsoperasjon, er nå på vei til teknologi for å incentivisere forbrukerne til å sende de forsinkede ventetider og plukke opp en vare i butikken, eller at de aller minste bestille det online først.

The store is best placed to capitalize on the online offline mix of an event like Black Friday, none other than Walmart, the big-box retailer with the largest footprint in the US and one of the most advanced technology operations in retail industry. Following its acquisition of a little over two years ago, Walmart has invested significant resources into creating a cohesive hybrid online and offline operation that uses mobile apps, cloud computing, and significant logistics and analytics software.

In retailer, this is called an omniscannel experience, and Walmart’s future As a viable retailer, there is a need to serve customers wherever they want to shop at all times of the day, and especially during events like Black Friday. Of course, looming on the horizon is Amazon, Walmart’s largest rival in retail and a company aggressively dedicated to expanding into new territories that Walmart currently dominates, like the grocery, pharmacy, and convenience store industries.

Amazon pulls in only about 40 percent of Walmart’s over $ 500 billion in annual sales. But CEO Jeff Bezos’ willingness and proficiency to move into new markets has every retailer from Walmart to CVS to Kroger looking at solutions to better modernize their businesses in the likely event Amazon continues to grow and expand. Walmart, in particular, has partnered with a number of technology companies to improve its delivery network. Det har også startet et godt samarbejde med Microsoft i en betydelig flerårig cloud computing deal med Microsofts Azure-platform for at forbedre sit online backend, så vel som de mange brugerdefinerede softwareelementer, der hjælper med at drive sine butikker, varehuse og datacentre.

Walmart’s Jae Evans, the company’s vice president of global engineering engineering and operations, says that an event like Black Friday is a true test of all its efforts to improve its mobile, online and in-store infrastructure. “We emulate this environment &#821

1; we call it stress testing – to see how customers are coming into the store, what they will be doing,” Evans told The Verge in an interview. “We run these tests quite a bit and we iterate, optimize, and we tune. We do this in a cyclical fashion, as we’re really trying to find those bottlenecks. ”

Evans says Walmart has a so-called customer reliability center in the heart of Silicon Valley, in Sunnyvale, California, that’s staffed 24 hours a day in shifts during an event like Black Friday. (The center is normally staffed all hours of the day, but typically with help from overseas employees.) The ultimate goal is to make sure nothing goes terribly wrong, like Walmart’s mobile app or website crashes in the middle of the Black Friday rush, or its in-store checkout systems suffer an outage. I tilfelle det gjør, Evans sier, at senteret er i stand til å trimme situasjonen og finne ut den beste måten å adressere det, være det en nettverkslogistikk problem eller en faktisk in-store flaskehals eller kunder som ikke kan skrive inn eller sjekke.

A Walmart customer reliability center in Sunnyvale, California is being used to monitor all in-store and online operations during Black Friday. Photo: Walmart

“There’s a mix of some stuff, we try to get our third-party apps out of the box,” Evans says of the software tools in use at Walmart’s engineering and operations divisions. Men fordi volumet og skalaen – 4,700 fysiske butikker og et sprawling website – “vi må bygge ut vores eget sæt af værktøjer,” adds hun. “Det er ikke bare den skala, men den hastighed af stigningen vi oplever i kort periode af tid. We have to have that level of elasticity. “

All of this behind-the-scenes infrastructure is to help Walmart’s increasingly sophisticated in-store operation, a cornerstone of its ability to compete with Amazon and other existing big-box retailers . Increasingly, consumers are finding out whether a certain product is available in-store through a retailer’s website and going out to pick it up in person. Driven in part by this practice, Walmart reported a 43 percent increase in year-over-year e-commerce sales last week during its quarterly earnings report.

In some cases, consumers are finding a product on one website and seeing that it’s Available in-store at another retailer, a process known as “webrooming”, a reverse or standard showrooming behavior that nearly 70 percent of US shoppers said they engage in, according to Shopify. On Black Friday, selv om mange tilbud er tilgængelige via Walmarts websted og online butikker eller andre forhandlere, er det kun i butikken.

To give consumers as many possible avenues to shop, Evans says Walmart is trying something new this year: personal checkout, like the kind You get at an Apple Store. It’s officially called Checkout with Me, and it first launched back in August as a pilot program for its outdoor lawn and garden sections at around 350 locations in the US. But Evans says the feature has since expanded to every Walmart Supercenter in the US – more than 3,000 locations – and it will be central to in-store Black Friday shopping.

Ultimately, it should help cut down on lines and checkout bottlenecks by letting customers with just one or two items get checked out by an associate on the floor running special software on a smartphone, similar to Apple’s retail approach but with full register and self-checkout systems as alternatives to managing high volume. It’s also a cheaper alternative, at least in the interim, to a more futuristic setup like the cashier-less Amazon Go. (Walmart is reportedly working on its own version of cashier-less retail technology, and Walmart-owned Sam’s Club has announced plans to open a cashier-less store in Texas where customers check out using a mobile app.)

Another strategy Evans says is Walmart’s item finder, built into its main mobile app, that gives you an easy-to-see map with pins where Black Friday products will be physically stocked. Additionally, Walmart is now letting customers return third-party products sold on at a physical store, instead of having to deal with the refund process online.

All of this, Walmart hopes, will improve its in-store experience and incentivize more customers to leave their homes and make the physical trip this evening when Walmart stores open for Black Friday, and over the weekend. Men nedover veien, Evans siger at disse typer af forberedelser, nye funktioner og infrastrukturinvesteringer slår sammen i virksomhedens større strategi for merging online og offline retail. Eventuelt kommer mer af selskapets suksess på sine mobilapplikasjoner og dets evne til å administrere og alt fra købmandslevering til Walmart Pay mobile payments service.

Grocery delivery in particular – more than half of all of Walmart’s sales are from groceries – is a particularly interesting learning experiment for Walmart, and it’s informing how it deals with holiday sales and other forms of high-volume shopping. Walmart expanded its grocery delivery service from 1,000 stores to more than 2,000 in a single year, and it was only because it was invested so much in technology that it was able to pull that off, Evans says. “That’s the kind of volumes we’re talking about,” she says. “Det er kompleksiteten og størrelsen som virkelig har hjulpet oss med at forstå kundeadfærd.”

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