In an effort to learn more about Walmart Labs, Inc. I decided to dedicate this blog post to diving deep into more of its features and history. Definitely, check out Katie’s blog post to read more about the company’s history and how they are leveraging themselves in the market today!
Walmart Labs is a privately held company in Mountain View, California, formerly known as Kosmix. On April 18th, 2011, Walmart announced it “made an investment in social e-commerce” as Kosmix had “developed a social media technology platform that filters and organizes content in social networks to connect people with real-time information that matters to them.”
Kosmix was founded by Venky Harinarayan and Anand Rajaraman, whose first company was Junglee. Junglee was the first shopping search engine and it was acquired by Amazon in 1998. The leaders worked as the heads of Walmart Labs for a year in 2011 until June 2012 when they left the firm. Kosmix’s innovative technology platform searched and analyzed connections in real-time data streams to deliver personalized insights to users.
The platform powered TweetBeat, a real-time social media filter for live events, Kosmix.com, a site to discover social content by topic and RightHealth, one of the top three health and medical information sites by global reach. RightHealth was initially introduced as a vertical search engine to demonstrate Kosmix’s approach to web navigation, and it was later expanded to a horizontal search engine in 2008. Additionally, Kosmix powered MeeHive, similar to Google News or MyYahoo! but allowed users to personalize their content.
Originally, Walmart Labs was created as a technical innovation lab to build and test new technology for Walmart.com but has evolved into focusing on ensuring Walmart.com is in a position of operational efficiency. Walmart Labs now includes Walmart eCommerce and store technology teams. According to Jeremy King the Executive Vice President and CTO of Walmart Labs, they are committed to:
- Create the world’s leading retail platform to enable the most seamless customer experience
- Increase our operating efficiencies while decreasing enterprise expenses
- Ensuring that store and corporate associates have access to secure digital solutions that empower them to excel at their jobs
The Teams at Walmart Labs are working tirelessly to solve problems in the retail industry. In-depth examples of case studies various teams are working on are provided on their website! They include an overview, challenges they face, solutions Walmart Labs is working on, as well as results. The teams include:
The Customer Technology team serves the customer. Whether they are a shopping on a mobile device, in the store or on the internet, the team ensures they are having the best possible experience they can. This involves building robust, scalable and data drive platforms and applications so that the user can benefit from personalized information and advertising through Walmart’s platforms. The customer technology team wants the experience to be “delightful and seamless” for the customer, and they want everyone to be satisfied.
The Merchant Technology team serves the merchant. They are responsible for online and in-store “search, pricing, catalog, content, inventory, replenishment, and fulfillment technology.” Merchants should be enabled to efficiently and effectively do their jobs, and the merchant technology team is dedicated to making sure this is possible. Innovation includes new technology, algorithms, and new products.
Supply Chain Technology
The Supply Chain Technology team is responsible for ensuring customers receive their purchases as quickly as they want in a “frictionless, predictable way” that still is cost-effective under Walmart’s standards of “every day low prices.” Walmart has hundreds of Distribution and Fulfillment Centers and thousands of drivers that are in control of making sure the orders reach the right consumers in the right amount of time.
Business Engagement & Strategy
The Business Engagement and Strategy team is responsible for overseeing the end-to-end delivery of the Walmart Labs technology portfolio. Walmart Labs has expanded to India, and there are engineering resources in both the US and India that need to be monitored. The team paves the way for the strategic direction of the company by prioritizing certain initiatives and partnering with different businesses.
Walmart has a Cloud Computing Program which is codenamed Strati, that delivers cloud-native capabilities for Walmart globally. There are both mega cloud and micro cloud environments involved. Strati enables “developers to focus more on code and less on the process.” Developers and the engineering teams can code more AND better.
Global Data and Analytics Platform
The Global Data and Analytics Platform team is responsible for making sure Walmart’s decisions are “data-driven, smarter, faster, and highly- automated.” There are four core capabilities including analytics and visualization, algorithmic products, machine learning technology, and data foundations. With data and analytics, Walmart can better understand and serve their customers. Data is empowering Walmart and its employees to do their job better and make their customers happier.
Walmart is the largest retailer in the world, but as Amazon has grown into the eCommerce place of choice, Walmart decided it would have to go big rather than go home. Walmart Labs went big into technology fueled innovation and is now pushing boundaries in Silicon Valley. The decision to base @WalmartLabs in Silicon Valley rather than Bentonville, Arkansas where the headquarters is was a strategic decision in it of itself. Walmart Labs feels more like Google or Facebook, with a startup culture, rather than a retail corporation’s office. The employees are continuously working on projects and building things, driving innovation forward.
One way Walmart is at an advantage compared to other online companies is that they have a large scale in their real-world operations. Combining this scale with new technology will give Walmart a unique perspective on how to reach more consumers and understand what exactly it is they are looking for. The future of Walmart is where online and in-store shopping is “an interconnected, consistent, and customer-first experience.”
Focusing on projects segues into Walmart Labs culture, which not only attracts and retains the best and the brightest talent but also offers scientists and engineers freedom to work when they want to and build what they want to. They want to own their innovation and build it at scale so they can quickly catch up to Amazon in the eCommerce space. Walmart Labs is crucial for Walmart’s plan to expand globally in the age of the Internet.
I invite you to read more about Walmart Labs online. There is so much exciting and fascinating information about their projects, case studies, and growth in the marketplace. Additionally, check out this short video which is about “Innovating the Future of Retail.” I hope you are more excited to be visiting Walmart Labs in just over week or so!