Microsoft and Walmart have just announced a significant advance in the digital shopping experience with new generative-AI search functionalities.
Through a blend of Walmart proprietary data and technology and large language models, the new capabilities will provide a curated list of personalized items for shoppers in an effort to deliver helpful, intuitive browsing.
This innovation looks set to increase on the $82 billion worth of e-commerce sales that Walmart generated last year.
This news also comes just as we shared the 2024 AI-trend predictions, suggesting that AI assistants will become more advanced in the next 12 months, with “get things done” capabilities.
How Will AI Browsing Work?
The innovation was revealed at this year’s CES tech event by Walmart President and CEO Doug McMillon and Microsoft Chairman and CEO Satya Nadella.
The AI-powered search function has been built bespoke to Walmart and will understand the context of a customer's query in order to generate personalized responses.
The example given in a Microsoft blog post announcing the technology was if a parent was planning a unicorn-themed birthday party, they could simply type “Help me plan a unicorn-themed birthday party for my daughter”. This would provide search results of relevant items such as unicorn-themed balloons, napkins, and streamers, and means the user wouldn’t have to undertake multiple individual searches.
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The aim of the AI search function is to give customers a more interactive and conversational experience, and will be available across iOS, Android, and Walmart’s own website.
Not Walmart's First AI Rodeo
While this may be Walmart’s first customer-facing AI-powered tool, the retail giant has already dipped its toe in generative AI capabilities.
Last year, in a blog post by Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer at Walmart Donna Morris, it launched a new generative-AI powered feature called My Assistant to all 50,000 non-store associates in the U.S.
The desktop and mobile app was designed to help speed up document drafting, summarize large documents, and serve as a creative partner in “a highly personalized and intuitive format”.
Created and built by Walmart, and leveraging LLMs in Azure OpenAI Service, the app seemingly set the path for further AI innovations with Morris stating:
“The possibilities with Gen-AI are broad, especially when we think of how this can benefit not only our associates, but also how we engage with customers and members, enabling more personalized interactions.”
The Latest Step In Microsoft Partnership
Having established a partnership back in 2018, Microsoft has been behind a range of Walmart’s cloud-based projects.
For it’s 32 health clinics, Walmart deployed Horizon Cloud on Azure so every new U.S location that opens will be able to access electronic health records. Similarly, the retailer’s finance organization chose to create an agile reporting and analytics solution using Microsoft Power BI.
When pairing this wide-ranging collaborative history with Walmart’s desire for more AI-powered solutions, it’s clear that the recently launched generative-AI search feature is only the start of more consumer-facing innovations.