20Walmart: Using Artificial Intelligence To Keep Shelves Stacked And Customers Happy

With over 11,000 retail stores worldwide, Walmart is the world's biggest company by revenue1 as well as the largest private employer with around 2.3 million employees. Its online and offline retailing operations are deeply interlinked as part of the company's strategy – real-world stores double as warehouses for its e-commerce business,2 while artificial intelligence (AI) and big data initiatives initially developed for e-commerce are also put to work on the shop floor.

From pioneering customer data gathering through loyalty schemes to its latest robotic, artificially intelligent shelf-scanning robots, Walmart has ensured it has kept itself at the technological cutting edge for decades.

What Problem Is Artificial Intelligence Helping To Solve?

With so many stores, tracking inventory is a major challenge for enterprises of Walmart's scale. To remain competitive in a market where businesses sink or swim on price and customer convenience, it must consistently and accurately predict customer buying trends, where locality, weather patterns, customer demographics and economic conditions all have an impact.

Without very close to real-time sensing, accurately monitoring how products are shipped and sold is challenging. Often it will involve different inventory systems being used by different departments. Siloed data may not be available at the moment its needed, and the data itself is subject to ...

Get Artificial Intelligence in Practice now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.