Walmart’s latest acquisition to give voice to its UX aspirations

Photo: Walmart
Nov 02, 2021

Walmart has announced a planned acquisition that the retailer believes will play an important role in its strategy to expand its “conversational” platform across voice, chat and AI-driven assistant technologies.

The retailer is acquiring Botmock, a startup that has created tools to design, prototype, test and deploy conversational applications across various platforms. The simplicity and openness of Botmock’s platform appears to be a key driver in Walmart’s decision to make the deal.

Cheryl Ainoa, senior vice president core services: retail & emerging tech, Walmart Global Tech, wrote yesterday on LinkedIn, “Botmock’s no-code platform features an intuitive drag and drop interface that automatically develops code in the background as conversation flows are created. By giving designers, merchants, customer service and other non-technical teams access to these tools, we can empower business owners from across our enterprise to easily create voice, chat and intelligent assistant experiences.”

Walmart sees voice and chat as natural ways for customers to communicate and believes that the technology will play a more prominent role over time. The retailer sees the ease of using the Botmock system helping the retailer to roll out voice and chat interfaces more quickly for both customers and associates. The technology Walmart is acquiring will enable it to build and deploy conversational upgrades in a matter of days instead of months.

The Botmock deal marks a continuation for Walmart into conversational technology.

Walmart teamed up with Google in 2017 to enable customers to order products online using a Google Home device or their Android phones. The retailer is also voice-enabled on the Siri platform.

Conversational applications include giving customers the option of checking in for contactless pickup orders using their voices. Associates can use the “Ask Sam” app to find a product’s location in the store.

Walmart has been active in pursuing text-to-shop technology, as well. The retailer, which launched its since abandoned Jetblack text and personal shopping service in 2018, recently announced a beta pilot of its Walmart Text to Shop service in select markets.

“Our customers today are busier than ever and they’re looking for simple ways to quickly connect with Walmart whenever they need us,” wrote Ms. Ainoa. “We’re seeing one of the easiest and most natural ways for customers to do this is through voice and chat, which is why we’ve built and deployed multiple conversational experiences and have plans to introduce even more.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you see as the potential for conversational technologies for both consumers and associate use? Do you see voice, chat or text technologies rising to the forefront in the near- or midterm?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"Conversational technology is still in its infancy and will only get better over time."
"These are smart examples of how voice technology should be implemented."
"Again Walmart show they are determined to stay at the forefront of technologies as the industry transforms – acquiring in a similar way to Amazon."

Join the Discussion!

8 Comments on "Walmart’s latest acquisition to give voice to its UX aspirations"

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Mark Ryski

Conversational technology is still in its infancy and will only get better over time. Notwithstanding the privacy issues some users have expressed over Alexa’s eavesdropping, I do believe that there is great potential for this type of technology for certain consumers – not everyone will feel comfortable with it. These technologies still have more evolving to do, but they seem to get better everyday, and I think it’s smart for Walmart to be placing that bet now.

Melissa Minkow

These are smart examples of how voice technology should be implemented. The use cases mentioned here are intuitive for consumers and actually make the journey easier. The key is inserting voice technology at points throughout the purchase journey where it would feel more natural for the shopper and where it doesn’t require them to adopt an additional device or platform. I’m excited about this.

Dave Wendland

Conversational commerce (a term first coined by Uber’s Chris Messina in a 2015) is a gamechanger as the intersection between messaging apps and shopping intensifies. Shortening the distance between conversations and purchasing is quickly evolving — and once again, Walmart has positioned itself in the lead position.

Liza Amlani

Conversational technology is a gamechanger for the customer experience as well as the store associate and enabling the right tech tools could also feed into product decisions.

Imagine getting product feedback, identifying gaps in an assortment, and helping customers style and outfit their product choices in real-time. Closing the feedback loop, using data to drive product and planning decisions, and getting faster to market is exactly why retailers need to enable digital tools.

Building deeper relationships with the customer and empowering associates is critical and the only way to do this is by enabling smart technology.

Mohamed Amer, PhD

Walmart is proving, once again, its strategic vision goes well beyond traditional retailing lore. The company is plotting technology breakthroughs against core human behavior to project its path.

Being conversational is hardcoded in our DNA. With the advent of computing technologies, we plunged into entering data on screens, whether free-flowing or in structured forms. Today technology is attempting to tap into our natural conversational state. When done right, and that will take more time, then a significant hurdle in the user interface will be history. Conversational platforms are the future of human-machine engagement.

Laura Davis-Taylor

I love this concept as well but have had some challenges when exploring it due to its ability to understand accents and different types of voices. I’d love to see this blossom — it creates some wonderful opportunities and, as a plus, is excellent for the visually impaired.

Oliver Guy
Oliver Guy
Global Industry Architect, Microsoft Retail
9 months 8 days ago

Again Walmart show they are determined to stay at the forefront of technologies as the industry transforms – acquiring in a similar way to Amazon.

Conversational commerce has the potential of being huge – it allows the “owner of the conversation” to determine which brands get a place in consumers’ homes in the event that a consumer does not express a preference. In this situation they have a lot of power that can be used to negotiate with the CPG companies.

Raj B. Shroff

Conversational technologies will make engagement more natural and intuitive. Much like face ID unlock on iPhone, users can more easily interact.

Yes, I see voice, chat and text technologies continuing to rise to the forefront. Chatbot agents on websites make support easier to deliver 24 x 7 from a business perspective.

The early stages after support will be more shopper engagement, suggestion, etc. In the next evolution you might be asking a package on the shelf where the ingredients are sourced from. There are many potential applications that remove the barrier to formal back and forth with humans or keyboards.

"Conversational technology is still in its infancy and will only get better over time."
"These are smart examples of how voice technology should be implemented."
"Again Walmart show they are determined to stay at the forefront of technologies as the industry transforms – acquiring in a similar way to Amazon."

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