Alexa, Google and Siri, meet Sam, the new kid on the virtual voice assistant block.
In an attempt to improve the in-store experience for customers without jeopardizing the health and safety of its store associates, Walmart is rolling out Ask Sam. The voice device, developed by membership-only Walmart subsidiary Sam’s Club and introduced in the second half of 2019, was created as a way to help associates find answers more effectively with features such as store maps, price lookup, product locator, check email, store sales information, printing, and birthdays and anniversaries. Over the past few months, Sam has also provided Walmart team members with current information and guidance related to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Every day, we serve millions of customers online and in stores, whether it’s helping customers pick fresh food to make meals for their families or enabling them to preorder snacks online and pick them up curbside on their way to a drive-in movie,” said Meng Chee, evp and chief product officer at Walmart, in a statement. “Our goal as a product organization is to create products, services and platform capabilities that make our associates’ and customers’ lives easier.”
Sam is the latest tech innovation from retailers looking to boost the shopping experience. PatrolBot, an automated security guard designed by Badger Technologies to appear as innocuous and not Terminator-esque as possible, will autonomously roves stores and warehouses to detect hazards. Last year, Walmart deployed its own fleet of automated retail workers to help with basic tasks like scanning shelves.
Showfields, an artsy, experiential department store in New York, launched a mobile app upon reopening called the Magic Wand that allows customers to interact with the store both virtually and physically. It provides contactless store tours, information about brands and products and the ability to save favorite brands and products on the app.
With a push of the Emergency Alert Button, Sam can send notifications to all associates (on and off the clock) on multiple platforms letting them know when they should stay inside or exit a facility, and when the store is secure and ready for normal operations to resume.
Ask Sam will become more sophisticated with higher levels of accuracy over time, partly because of machine learning, and because Walmart’s team conducts regular manual reviews. The company also engages associates for feedback.
“Maintaining a customer-centric mindset and willingness to experiment will allow us to continuously improve and innovate the products, services and solutions we offer associates,” said Chee, “and in turn, the value we provide for customers.”