Walmart using AI to make better substitutions in online grocery orders
U.S. retailer Walmart is using artificial intelligence (AI) to aid customers and personal shoppers and better handle still-surging online demand for groceries amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.
The machine learning-enabled tool looks at a wide range of factors — including product features, what is in stock, what customers tend to choose and what the specific customer has chosen in the past — to make a more informed decision than the picker would be able to make on their own in the moment.
The feature then points in-store shoppers to the item’s location, allowing them to quickly retrieve it. The system also gives customers the option to view substitutions and approve or reject them before receiving their order, helping the AI learn. So far, the company reports that more than 95 percent of the feature’s suggestions are approved.
“The decision on how to substitute is complex and highly personal to each customer,” Srini Venkatesan, executive vice president of Walmart Global Tech, commented in the announcement. “If the wrong choice is made, it can negatively impact customer satisfaction and increase costs.”
This is not the first time such a solution has been deployed. In March, “taste intelligence company” Halla, announced the latest iteration of its Halla Substitute feature, which also takes into account the customer’s order history and real-time stock inventory information to make intelligent suggestions to those fulfilling online grocery orders.
The company points to findings that more than a fifth of grocery customers switched to purchasing from a competing store when frustrated by out-of-stock items at their first choice, noting that smart suggestions can circumvent this frustration.
“When grocers use Halla in their eCommerce experiences, shoppers feel like their grocer really understands what they want, and why they selected a particular item,” Henry Michaelson, co-founder and chief technology officer of Halla, said in a statement. “And because Halla Substitute eliminates the hassle for the shopper, customers are delighted, not disappointed, by substitutions.”