Last year, owing to the global pandemic, there was observed a radical shift in America’s shopping behavior. Customers increasingly began shopping online even for their everyday needs, including food and groceries. That hike in demand was a gift for online grocers, however, it also threw some light on a unique challenge to retailers as the combination of in-store shoppers and online volume meant some popular items could quickly sell out. As a solution to this problem, Walmart came up with one. Rather than relying on human intelligence to make the switch, the company will offer the ability for in-store shoppers to use artificial intelligence (AI) to more accurately fulfill customers’ orders when the requested items are out of stock. Simply put, with the use of AI both the customers as well Personal shoppers choose the best substitute for an out-of-stock item.
The decision on how to substitute is complex and highly personal to each customer. If the wrong choice is made, it can negatively impact customer satisfaction and increase costs.
To help ensure a substitution that will result in a happy customer, Walmart’s team created a technology solution to help identify the next best item for customers if an item they selected is out of stock. This technology uses deep learning AI to consider hundreds of variables — size, type, brand, price, aggregate shopper data, individual customer preference, current inventory, and more – in real-time to determine the best next available item. It then preemptively asks the customer to approve the substituted item or let them know they don’t want it, an important signal that’s fed back into their learning algorithms to improve the accuracy of future recommendations. Until now, the company reports that more than 95 percent of the feature’s suggestions are approved.
This solution has helped to make the company’s associate work easier. Rather than having to guess, the personal shopper can be informed of what the customer exactly may prefer. If in case, that particular product isn’t available, this system suggests an alternative product. The tech even shows the Personal Shopper where the item is located in the store, simplifying the decision-making process for our team and enabling them to prepare orders quickly and efficiently.
Considering the success rate of this technology, the company will continue to enhance this tech, and also the customers have been responding positively to it. Their primary, however, is to never be out of stock and never to go for substitutions. But, when it happens, AI they built is there to ensure the customer gets nothing but the best.