Walmart pilots ‘first-of-its-kind’ robotics system
Walmart is adding a new member to its online grocery fulfillment team — but it’s not an associate.
Walmart is set to launch a pilot, in collaboration with start-up Alert Innovation, that uses “first-of-its-kind” automated technology to help associates fill online grocery orders faster than ever before. The system, called “Alphabot,” — developed specifically for the chain — will automatically bring items from storage to associates who will consolidate the items in the order.
The technology, which will launch by the end of the year, will be tested at a Walmart supercenter in Salem, New Hampshire, coinciding with the store’s re-grand opening. A 20,000-sq.-ft. extension connected to the store will house the system, and also include a dedicated grocery pickup point with drive-thru lanes for customers.
Once Alphabot has finished picking merchandise, automated mobile carts will retrieve the items, which will be stored warehouse-style in the store’s new extended space, and deliver them to associates at one of four pick stations. Walmart personal shoppers will then pick, assemble and deliver orders to customers.
“The vast majority of grocery products we offer in-store will be fulfilled through this system, though our personal shoppers will still handpick produce and other fresh items,” stated Mark Ibbotson, executive VP of central operations, Walmart U.S., in a blog on the company’s website.
The robotic system will reduce the time associates spend walking the store aisles in search of products and fulfilling orders, Walmart said.
“With the aid of Alphabot, our associates will have more time to focus on service and selling, the two things they often tell us are the most enjoyable part of the job, while the technology handles the more mundane, repeatable tasks,” Ibbotson said. “Although this is a small pilot, we expect big things from it.”
In addition to Alphabot, other new technology will be implemented in the remodeled store, including the chain’s pick-up tower for online orders and an automated shelf-scanner that helps identify out-of-stock items, incorrect pricing and missing labels.
Alphabot is not Walmart’s first foray into robotics. The discount giant is using a shelf-scanning robot at store-level to detect out-of-stock items, incorrect prices and wrong or missing labels.
Engaging content drives Amazon product search results
Products that feature more robust content are topping Amazon’s merchandise searches.
Items with more product content, from images to bullets and reviews, not only outrank merchandise with less content a majority of the time, they are also the most frequently purchased items, according to “The Sales Impact of Optimized Product Content,” a study from Salsify. The study analyzed pages associated with more than 500,000 Amazon search results, and 60,000 Amazon product pages across 78 brands.
According to the study, products with significantly more reviews will convert at a higher rate and outrank its top competitor 58% of the time. The same holds true for listing with images (53%), and those with bullets (51%).
Product pages with top-tier Amazon sales ranks have 64% more images, on average. These products were also more than twice as likely to have increased their image and bullet counts over the past year, as compared to poorer-selling products on the site, the report said.
Ongoing content optimization also helped improve merchandise rankings in the past year. For example, 50% of products with enhanced product listings improved their average Amazon sales rank over 2017. Meanwhile, 73% of these items improved their average sales ranking overall. Items with better Amazon sales ranks also have a higher sales share in their category, the study revealed.
“Online retailers like Amazon see that consumers respond to great content by purchasing the items that provide robust product page experiences. It’s why they work that insight into their search algorithms,” explained Josh Silverman, director of analytics and data science at Salsify. “If brands want to beat out their competitors and gain market share long-term, they need to act nimbly and aim to continually optimize their product content online.”
Online no-brand retail upstart secures new funding to fuel growth
An online retailer that sells no-name home staples — mostly at $3 a pop — is resonating with consumers and investors.
Brandless announced it has raised $240 million in Series C funding, led by the SoftBank Vision Fund. Existing investors NEA, Redpoint Ventures, GV, and Sherpa Capital also participated in the round. SoftBank Investment Advisors’ Jeffrey Housenbold and Justin Wilson will join the Brandless board.
Launched in July 2017, Brandless makes and sells a curated assortment of “no-brand” everyday essentials — from organic, non-GMO food and clean beauty and personal care products to non-toxic cleaners and home goods. Most items are priced at $3.
“After just one year, we already offer more than 300 proprietary Brandless products and ship to 48 states every day in support of our thriving #Brandlesslife community,” said Tina Sharkey, co-founder and CEO of Brandless. “SoftBank’s deep experience in e-commerce, global network and long-term perspective will help us accelerate our mission to make better stuff accessible and affordable for more people.”
In the near-term, Brandless will use the funding to deepen its investment in data science and accelerate the creation and distribution of new products and categories. It will also invest in its operations and logistics platforms and capabilities.
In addition to selling product, Brandless also creates and curates original digital content, ranging from recipes to spotlights on people doing good in the world. The company also partners with Feeding America, the nation’s largest network of food bank.
“When we founded Brandless, we set out to break molds, and take a fresh approach to the way people buy products by focusing on quality, access and affordability for everyone,” said Brandless co-founder and chairman Ido Leffler. “Our new partnership with SoftBank is an incredible validation of our mission and will allow us to build our community beyond our wildest dreams.”