Walmart preps in-store SMS shopping assistant
Through a special arrangement, what follows is an excerpt of an article from Fierce Retail, an e-newsletter and website covering the latest retail technology news and analysis.
Walmart could soon roll out a new mobile feature that lets shoppers access customer service in stores through a simple text. Simple Text is, quite simply, a virtual personal assistant for Walmart shoppers and helps locate items inside stores.
Shoppers text "hi" to an identified phone number, 415-214-8445, and are then greeted by a Walmart associate via SMS directing them to the item of their choice in precise detail. For more complicated or nuanced questions, shoppers will be directed to a live customer service agent.
The retailer attended TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon in San Francisco in mid-September and opened up its APIs to more than 600 hackers and offered prizes for top retail solutions. On its blog site, WalmartLabs said Simple Text’s hackers won the first-ever #WMTCode hack over a dozen submissions "because it simplified and elevated the customer experience with an easy to use solution."
The winners won $5,000 and earned the chance to test Walmart Simple Text in one Walmart store.
The hacker team was driven to create the app out of frustration with the size of enormous discount stores and supercenters. "It’s such a huge store," hacker Rachel Tsao told TechCrunch. "I want to get my hot Cheetos and get right out," said fellow hacker and team member Clara Tsao.
The team chose SMS over integrating the feature into Walmart’s native app to reach a wider assortment of shoppers. "The demographic of large stores was our inspiration; most users don’t know how to download apps or they don’t know how to find an app," Ms. Tsao said. "Plus, asking them to use their data plans is a big part of it. We really wanted something that helped them find what they need and it’ll drive them to the app."
Driving shoppers to the app is the goal of many retailers and it’s likely to be Walmart’s, as well. But the retailer has always been adept at not focusing on technology for technology’s sake. Rather, Walmart has a very clear customer profile and is creating services and products to meet the needs of that shopper.
- Walmart preps in-store SMS shopping assistant – Fierce Retail
- Walmart Simple Text takes first place in #WMTCode hack at #HackDisrupt – WalmartLabs
- Walmart Simple Text – Devpost
- Walmart Simple Text Could Be Walmart’s Version Of Magic – TechCrunch
- Walmart is looking for a few good hackers – Fierce Retail
- Sam’s Club unveils re-invention plan – Fierce Retail
- Walmart’s mobile promotion puts SMS to good use – Fierce Retail
How much appeal will Simple Text have for in-store shoppers? Does it make sense to use a virtual customer-service assistant as a text messaging feature rather than integrating it into Walmart’s native app?