The idea of "getting what you want" feels somewhat synonymous with Walmart. After all, there's a reason that Walmart reigns as the largest retailer in the U.S., and it's the company's varied departments and different ways to shop online and in-store. Walmart has shown itself to be effective as keeping up with the times, and now another change is on the horizon: The retailer is working on a significant upgrade. Read on to find out what Walmart may soon be offering, and how it could change your shopping experience.
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Walmart is constantly introducing innovative technology.
We've all shifted our shopping tendencies, especially after becoming accustomed to shopping online throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Walmart is staying on top of these changing customer preferences, introducing new policies and features that help make virtual shopping that much more enjoyable.
In July, Walmart announced that it would allow customers to bundle its Walmart+ membership with InHome Delivery Service. By bringing the services "under the Walmart+ umbrella," the retailer intended to enhance convenience, while also saving customers money. Additionally, within the Walmart app, customers can now access a new augmented reality feature, which lets you see certain furniture and home décor items in your space before you make a big purchase.
Now, the retailer seems to be delving even further into the digital age, as a new robotic feature is being introduced.
Walmart has a new partner.
If you're frequently placing orders for curbside pickup at Walmart, you know that there's sometimes a bit of a wait time. In fact, you might even start to feel a bit peckish. Thankfully, Walmart is working to solve this dilemma.
According to Insider, the retailer has partnered with the robotics startup company Tortoise to introduce mobile vending machines in Walmart parking lots. Yes, you read that right—thanks to these robots, you can now buy snacks as you're waiting to pick up your groceries.
Here's how it works.
These mobile vending machines are "floating" robotic warehouses built by Tortoise, which were originally intended to be used as a last-mile delivery service, per Insider.
The robots are currently being piloted at a Walmart near the retailer's corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, Insider reported. Walmart kicked off this initiative in July in an effort "to see if customers enjoy a mobile vending experience."
At Walmart, the robots are able to drive themselves up to a customer's vehicle. From there, you can tap and pay via credit card, Apple Pay, or Google Pay, and take your purchase once the lid opens.
A TikTok video on Tortoise's Twitter page, originally posted by @reallifesarah918, shows the robot at the Bentonville Walmart, which the TikToker calls "store 100." She states that the robot actually talks to you and "tells you what to do" when making a purchase. In the video, the robot is selling sweet and salty snacks—Kinder chocolate eggs and Jack Link's beef jerky.
There's a specific reason these robots are now in play.
If you prefer to order your groceries or purchases ahead of time, you might not be as tempted to buy things you don't need. That's exactly why Walmart has opted to test this initiative, Dmitry Shevelenko, cofounder and president of Tortoise, told Insider.
"They're bleeding revenue because you make fewer impulse buys when you're buying online," Shevelenko told the outlet, adding that Tortoise's business model is focused on being quick and easy.
"Our north star is 15-second commerce," the cofounder added. "You get what you want and go."
The mobile vending machines are not limited to Walmart.
Walmart is the largest retail partner for Tortoise, as well as its "first large-scale national retailer partnership," Insider reported. But you might also see these robots at different sports stadiums and concert venues across the country, thanks to Tortoise's partnerships with other food-service vendors.
Scrolling through Tortoise's Twitter, you can see pictures of robots selling both hot and cold food items, as well as general merchandise. One robot—aptly named "Frank"—has been selling hot dogs at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, while other robots sold burritos and Gatorade at San Diego Comic Con in July, and hats and tote bags at a Machine Gun Kelly concert in June. A video montage playing on Tortoise's website also shows the robotic vending machines—which appear to be smiling—selling cookies and pastries in public parks and locations.
As for Walmart, the retailer has not made it clear if and when it will introduce these mobile vending machines at additional stores. A company spokesperson told Insider it is "only focused on this particular use case at this time," indicating the Bentonville location.
Best Life reached out to Walmart for comment, but has not yet heard back.