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11/02/2021

Walmart acquires tech to boost conversational commerce

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Walmart is acquiring technology to advance development of its conversational platform.

Walmart is making a financial investment to support automated and streamlined communications with customers.

The discount giant plans to acquire select technology assets of Botmock, a startup that has built a set tools to design, prototype, test and deploy conversational applications across multiple platforms. Botmock’s no-code platform features an intuitive drag-and-drop interface that automatically develops code in the background as conversation flows are created.

By giving non-technical employees, such as customer service agents, access to these tools, Walmart hopes to enable them to more easily interact with customers across voice, chat and intelligent assistant platforms. The retailer also seeks the ability to build natural voice and chat interfaces for its customers and associates faster and deploy them more rapidly.

Previously, Walmart had to consider all possible conversation flows when designing a voice or chat interaction such as a customer using a voice assistant to build their grocery cart. Engineers would need to work with product or design teams to create a prototype, with deployment potentially taking months. The Botmock technology the retailer is acquiring will enable it to build and deploy a conversational experience in just a few days.

Walmart will use Botmock technology to build upon a number of conversational commerce services it already offers customers. These include teaming up with Google to offer hundreds of thousands of items available for voice shopping via Google Assistant, and to enable shoppers to order items directly to their Walmart grocery shopping carts using Google Assistant by saying “Hey Google, talk to Walmart.” 

More recently, Walmart began beta testing a shopping experience called “Walmart Text to Shop” with customers in select areas. And store associates at Walmart and its Sam’s Club warehouse club subsidiary can use a voice-activated employee app called Ask Sam. The app allows associates to find the location of products in stores by saying things like, “where is almond butter?”, or gain access to their work schedule by texting, “what’s my schedule tomorrow?”

Our customers today are busier than ever and they’re looking for simple ways to quickly connect with Walmart whenever they need us,” Cheryl Ainoa, senior VP, core retail services & emerging technology at Walmart,” said in a LinkedIn post. “We’re seeing one of the easiest and most natural ways for customers to do this is through voice and chat, which is why we’ve built and deployed multiple conversational experiences and have plans to introduce even more.

I’m excited about the many opportunities to integrate Botmock’s technology with our current conversational platform,” Ainoa said. “Not only will the addition of this technology help us create more ways to serve customers, it will also help speed time to market and lower our costs. Stay tuned for more exciting things to come in this space.”

Financial terms of the acquisition agreement have not been disclosed.