More about @WalmartLabs!

Introduction

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.”

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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.

 

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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:

  1. Create the world’s leading retail platform to enable the most seamless customer experience
  2. Increase our operating efficiencies while decreasing enterprise expenses
  3. Ensuring that store and corporate associates have access to secure digital solutions that empower them to excel at their jobs

    cdn.corporate.walmart

    Jeremy King

Teams

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:

Customer Technology

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.

Merchant Technology

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. 

 

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Global Cloud

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.

Why?

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!

 

8 thoughts on “More about @WalmartLabs!

  1. Great in-depth analysis, Michelle! After reading about the different teams that @WalmartLabs is divided into, it was great to read some of the case studies on their website. The best one I found was their use of In-Store Robotics to scan shelves. Which one did you find most interesting?

    When we visit, I am eager to learn about more digital solutions that store associates have access to. If Walmart can MASTER in-store customer service, they will certainly maintain an advantage in a very competitive space.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I really enjoyed reading about the Picking Optimization under the Supply Chain Technology team. It tackles challenges of picking products efficiently and creates a streamlined process for the consumer. The picking optimization engine optimizes how store associates pick up the groceries and involves the distribution of orders among various batches.

      Like

  2. Awesome work, Michelle! I loved the part of your post where you laid out the division of teams: it really gives us a good sense of how responsibilities are divided, what Walmart’s goals are, and what it may look like to work for Walmart Labs. I was particularly intrigued by the Global Cloud Division, and I have a question for you. From what you said, it seems that the cloud computing services in this department are used to support Walmart’s global work force. Do you see Walmart possibly expanding cloud computing services to other businesses to compete with AWS and Microsoft Azure? I think this would be an awesome question to ask Walmart Labs on our trip. Again, great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Very helpful post, Michelle! I’m particularly interested in their development of supply chain technologies. As Walmart expands its online business and attempts to compete with Amazon, it will be crucial to the company’s success that they can effectively handle quick online order processing and delivery without sacrificing their brick-and-mortar business (e.g. through the use of in-store robotics that Kipp touched on). In light of their recent inventory management issues, especially with the core, everyday items, it will be interesting to see if Walmart experiments with any of the tech from Walmart Labs to streamline the business and systems!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is very informative! I agree with Rohan that the supply chain technologies is very intriguing. Walmart has the advantage of extensive physical infrastructure but Amazon certain has a state-of-art inventory management. Very interested to see if it can catch up with online services while enhancing the in-store experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I really liked how you broke down the operational departments of Walmart Labs. It gave me a new perspective and convinced me that Walmart is serious about competing with Amazon. Many times, it seems like they are more talk than action. However, like @katieibailey said in her presentation, I think being able to work under the radar and without the spotlight that Amazon has to work under might actually be beneficial to Walmart Labs. Instead of focusing on how they appear to the public, Walmart can focus its efforts on harnessing its advantage as the current underdog. Additionally, I agree with @jjliang91that if Walmart eventually trumps Amazon, it will be by utilizing its massive physical infrastructure to its advantage.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Excellent post Michelle! It’s interesting to see how Walmart Labs is fostering technological innovation to keep Walmart in the running with e-commerce giants such as Amazon. When I had my first job as a cashier, I observed how important inventory and recordkeeping in a retail setting is. Walmart Lab’s Merchant Technology team seems to be making great progress to ensure accurate inventory accounting and optimal efficiency.

    In my blogpost about the rise of the “no-collar class,” I looked into Walmart’s shelf scanning robots. You can check out the video here: https://youtu.be/_j2oh432RFY. I found it fascinating how efficient the robots make the shelving and inventory processes. I won’t be surprised if we start to see more of these bots in retail stores. Looking forward to our visit!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Super interesting post! It was a great strategic decision to allow Walmart labs to innovate out in California, but it’s odd to me that Walmart labs works so closely on Walmart.com’s operational efficiency rather than on creating new projects. It seems that many other companies who implement a satellite innovation office operate separately; innovating without the constraints of corporate culture.
    This leads me to wonder how Walmart Labs collaborates with the IT department in Walmart’s headquarters, and who handles which aspects of the online business.

    Like

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