Walmart is reportedly expanding its fleet of store-level robots
Robots are becoming commonplace across the sales floors of more Walmart stores.
The discount giant expanded its initial test of its shelf-scanning robots to 50 stores across four states, including Arkansas and California. Similar to those used in its test phase, the technology is designed to free up workers’ time so they can help customers, according to Business Insider.
In addition to pinpointing out-of-stock items, misplaced merchandise, incorrect prices, and wrong or missing labels, the robots revealed new uses during their initial test phase. For example, associates have access to the robots’ compiled data. This information reveals fast-moving merchandise that should be rushed off of delivery trucks and onto store shelves, according to the report.
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Target tests new loyalty concept
Target is introducing a new way to drive loyalty.
The discount retailer will test a new rewards program, called “Target Red,” in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas area next month. The program offers a variety of perks, including 1% back on every purchase, and the ability to help direct Target’s community giving.
In addition to the perks, members are also entitled to free next-day deliveries from the company’s Target Restock program, which delivers household essentials and dry groceries in a day. They also will receive 50% off their first year of their membership to Shipt, Target’s same-day delivery service. Shipt typically runs $99 a year.
Unlike its original REDcard however, Target’s new loyalty program is not tied to a payment card. While the program’s 1% back is not stackable, REDcard holders enrolled in Target Red still receive the new loyalty perks, along with still saving 5% when using their REDcard, according to the blog.
“When developing Target Red, we went straight to our guests to better understand what would be most meaningful to them in a loyalty program,” Target executive VP and chief marketing officer Rick Gomez said in a blog on the company’s website. “That’s what they’ll see reflected in this test — a free and easy way to be rewarded simply for shopping at Target. “On top of the shopping benefits, the program also aims to create a more personalized experience for our guests, like giving them a chance to help direct our community giving in their own backyard.”
Here’s how the new program works: Customers enroll in the test program via the Target app. Once registered, they can re-deem accrued rewards online or in stores through their wallet in the Target app. They can also use this functionality to vote on which local organizations should receive donations from Target’s community giving program.
Study: Amazon ‘likely’ to succeed at healthcare—and have disruptive impact
Amazon is entering healthcare — and healthcare may never be the same.
That’s the takeaway from a new report by global management consulting firm L.E.K Consulting, which said the online giant has the right skills and capabilities to follow through on its big healthcare-industry ambitions and will launch offerings that range from mail-order pharmacy to AI-based diagnostics. (Amazon in late January announced its entry into the healthcare field through an alliance with JP Morgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway.)
“They (Amazon) have repeatedly shown that they have the capabilities, the patience, and the deep pockets to disrupt industry after industry,” said Rob Haslehurst, managing director at L.E.K. “Healthcare is no exception.”
Amazon already has many of the core competencies needed to compete in healthcare. These include ready access to capital, a massive distribution infrastructure, a strong technology base, a robust data analytics capability, and a deep, talented executive bench that, “like Bezos himself, is relentless, resourceful, fast, inventive and customer-obsessed,” said Haslehurst.
The report outlined five scenarios as to how Amazon is likely to enter and dominate healthcare.
“They’re not mutually exclusive — in fact, they represent a roadmap that Amazon can follow to move continually deeper into the healthcare industry,” said L.E.K. managing director and report co-author Joseph Johnson. “All of them illustrate Amazon’s ability to drive down prices and margins while fundamentally transforming customer behavior.”
Amazon’s possible points of entry are:
• Durable medical equipment and medical supplies. “This is a no-brainer, because Amazon is already there,” said Johnson. “It currently sells a broad array of general medical supplies and durable medical equipment (DME) to consumers.”
Amazon’s core competencies in logistics and distribution, and its existing B2B ecommerce platform, will allow it to easily expand into hospital and provider supply, disrupting the traditional group purchasing organization (GPO) contract model. Amazon has already obtained licenses to distribute medical supplies to providers in 43 states.
• Mail order and retail pharmacy. Amazon has secured approval as a wholesale distributor from 12 state pharmaceutical boards. Drug storage is a hurdle, and there are regulatory challenges. But Amazon can work through them. It can also build pharmacies into its recently-acquired Whole Foods stores.
The company can also take advantage of its predictive analytics and customer data capabilities to build digital health tools that track and influence patient behavior — giving it a leg up over traditional pharmacy in working with the most challenging areas of healthcare delivery.
• Pharmacy benefit manager. Amazon’s most likely move into the field will be by partnering with a large PBM such as Express Scripts or by buying a smaller player like Prime Therapeutics. Amazon would gain a pharmacy network and a claims adjudication capability, and its partner would gain access to millions of Amazon Prime members.
• Telemedicine or in-home healthcare. Amazon’s Echo smart speaker (with 20 million units sold to date) and Alexa, its voice-controlled personal assistant service, give it an enormous platform for new voice-activated services. Healthcare could easily be among them. Bezos has talked publicly about the role for Alexa in the future of healthcare delivery. Alexa’s first step would be to help book physician visits. But thanks to Echo Show’s video capabilities, the next move might be in-home virtual house calls.
• AI-powered diagnostics and continuous care. Amazon’s “final frontier” in healthcare could be fully automated, AI-driven, in-home healthcare and diagnostics.
“Amazon has deep AI capabilities — machine-learning already drives many of its offerings, from its customer recommendation engine to its service centers,” said Johnson. “It would be only logical to harness that capability to diagnostics. And in fact, this has already started — Alexa now delivers first-aid information and voice driven self-care instructions in an offering introduced by the Mayo Clinic. It wouldn’t be a stretch to add first-line diagnostic information, provide medication reminders, and auto-refill prescriptions.”
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