Will Walmart customers ‘Text to Shop’?

Source: Walmart
Dec 30, 2022

Walmart is rolling out a “Text to Shop” feature that allows customers to add items to their online shopping basket using text messages.

To work, the free feature must be linked to the shopper’s Walmart account so their usually ordered items can be reordered, according to a blog entry. For instance, if an individual texts “ice cream,” the application knows what flavor, brand and size they typically purchase. If a shopper texts an item they haven’t purchased before, they are provided with options from which to choose.

Customers can switch things out, review what’s in their cart, check out, and schedule pickups and deliveries via text or the Walmart app. (Order changes must be made up to three hours before an order is scheduled for pickup or is scheduled to go out for delivery.)

Some customer comments in the blog entry commending Text to Shop included:

  • “I had gotten everything I needed but then I forgot two or three items, and I could get them with just a text. It’s almost as if you have your own personal shopper.”
  • “When different things pop into your mind you’re usually out and about running errands. I don’t have time to log into the app and add to the cart.”
  • “I love having Walmart messages pinned at the top of my message app. It’s easy to just add things.”

In a blog entry from January, Desirée Gosby, VP, emerging technology, Walmart Global Tech, and Dominique Essig, VP, Conversational Commerce, Store No8, said the company applied learnings from Jetblack to Text to Shop, a $50-per-month subscription service Walmart launched in 2018 that enabled shoppers to text message personal shoppers. The feature was shut down in 2020 reportedly after significant losses.

The retailer has conducted multiple beta tests of Text To Shop since March 2021, appraising the use of both text and voice shopping capabilities as time savers for customers. The two wrote, “To do this well, we designed Walmart’s conversational shopping experiences to meet customers where they are — meaning on their preferred devices — and to communicate naturally, by allowing customers to simply ask for what they want, any way they want.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will “Text to Shop” hold enough appeal to support wide use from shoppers? Do you see challenges around execution or achieving ROI?

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"Long story short: Location, location, location is now anywhere, anyhow, now."
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15 Comments on "Will Walmart customers ‘Text to Shop’?"

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Georganne Bender

Leave it to Walmart to make online shopping even more efficient. Text to Shop sounds amazing. And easy. You know shoppers will love it.

Dave Wendland

The phrase “location, location, location” is one of the most important expressions in business. For retailers, omnipresent location will determine how successful they may become and whether shoppers will patronize them anytime, anywhere.

Text to Shop is another “location” that adds convenience, immediacy, and basket-building ease for Walmart shoppers. I see it as a positive step forward for Walmart and an extension for shopper interactions.

Jeff Sward

Location! Great way to express this.

Cathy Hotka

Shopping has never been more ubiquitous or convenient. Shoppers can purchase items by watching Roku now. Like water seeking the lowest point, expect shopping to get still more convenient through the use of technology.

Gene Detroyer

The comments quoted in the discussion will resonate with every shopper. The word continues to apply as top-of-mind for the shopper — CONVENIENCE!

Technically, this sounds like a slam dunk. Walmart obviously went back to the lab for the last two years. They took their Jetblack experience and refined ideas and technology.

Other online grocers better get into the lab themselves.

Brian Delp
28 days 22 hours ago

This is just one more touch point to make Walmart the most frictionless retailer. Walmart still has a long way to go in improving its current website and digital integrations, such as QR codes, video content, and utilizing UGC but this is a great feature and shows they are leading, not following.

Ken Morris

I think anything that eases the customer journey is worth doing. This sounds like a win-win for the customer and Walmart: quick, convenient, and efficient. Winning over a younger demographic is also a smart move as text is their lingua franca. I also suspect that Text to Shop is in its infancy. AI chatbots will remove any need for the default being a reorder. This will become table stakes, just like BOPIS and curbside pickup emerged as such during the pandemic. Once more customers become adept at dictating texts, adoption of Text to Shop will grow faster, too.

Long story short: Location, location, location is now anywhere, anyhow, now.

Jeff Sward

I really applaud the effort that Walmart is putting into making the grocery shopping task easy and efficient. I develop my own shopping list over the course of two to three days on a simple list app and then check items off that list as I shop. But I’m not a BOPIS or delivery customer. So while this elevates the shopping experience for the existing Walmart customer, I’m not sure it will draw in new customers. And I can only hope that it doesn’t create complexity in the execution of filling orders, creating a level of friction that it is supposed to eliminate.

Ananda Chakravarty

Another example of doing business where the customer is on customer terms. This one, though appealing, will take some time to become mainstream. It may initially appeal to customers already buying most of their groceries through Walmart. Jetblack was designed to drive concierge capabilities and typically suited already loyal shoppers. ROI is inherent for the few shoppers that use it.

Shep Hyken

The retail experience gets even more convenient. If the technology works, is easy to use, and saves the customer time, Walmart has a winning combination. Like most of these technologies, it will take a while for it to catch on. Let’s see where we are a year from now.

John Karolefski

Shoppers under 50 years of age (and especially Millennials) will try this feature to determine if it’s worthwhile. Most folks over 50 (and especially over 60) won’t because they think it’s another in a long line of needless techno nonsense.

Brad Halverson

Compelling work here by Walmart to improve the customer experience. Meeting customers where they are, in the mode they prefer, and allowing them to ask for what they want is at the very heart of being customer centric. Retailers who help customers save time or prevent frustration will gain a larger share of their wallet.

New things will be learned using this new technology as they roll it out. No doubt, Walmart will discover some things about their customers and their brand they didn’t know along the way.

Anil Patel

Walmart has made an excellent decision! The “Text to Shop” feature will improve the overall customer experience. When customers shop online or in-store, they usually know what they want. As a result, the ability to simply text their shopping list rather than browsing and spending hours in between the aisles will undoubtedly make shopping more convenient. Furthermore, the feature introduced by Walmart in 2018 differs significantly from this functionality. I’m confident that Walmart’s strong tech stack will ensure that “Text to Shop” is successfully implemented. The feature will also certainly give Walmart a competitive advantage and encourage other brands to follow suit.

Oliver Guy

This is awesome. In so many ways, it beats any form of “Alexa-type” shopping as it is sometimes easier to type than speak. In addition, dictation capabilities on phones allow you to speak as well.

Key will be how well the engine correctly understands your texts, but also the availability of what you are seeking to do — requesting a change of pick-up slot but the time you need to change it to not being available could be very frustrating.

Mark Self

No. There are all sorts of challenges here, including changing behavior and assuming the core market texts enough to make it easy. Plus, as different platforms become available (Discord for example), will they have to convert to these new opportunities?

Bottom line, I think this may work but not in the immediate future.

"Leave it to Walmart to make online shopping even more efficient."
"Long story short: Location, location, location is now anywhere, anyhow, now."
"This is just one more touch point to make Walmart the most frictionless retailer."

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