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At Walmart’s 47th Annual Shareholders’ Meeting, which kicked off June 2, President and CEO Doug McMillon noted that the Bentonville, Ark.-based mega-retailer has “started to invent the future of shopping again,” as it makes use of technology to empower associates and improve the customer experience.
“Together, we’re building a new Walmart,” McMillon told 14,000-plus associates at Bud Walton Arena at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark. “We’re going to make shopping with us faster, easier and more enjoyable. We’ll do more than just save customers money and you, our associates, will make the difference. Looking ahead, we will compete with technology, but win with people. We will be people-led and tech-empowered.”
Regarding the company’s vision for the future, McMillon said Walmart was “making every day easier for busy families and we’re using new ways of working to do it,” among them a program being tested in which store associates deliver items to customers, digital endless-aisle shopping in stores, automated pickup towers in stores for online orders, pickup stations in store parking lots, robotics and image analytics to scan aisles for item availability and shelf presentation, and machine learning and more advanced algorithms in pricing systems.
McMillon also pointed to initiatives that aimed to create a better working experience for associates and shopping experience for customers, including free two-day shipping on more than 2 million items, with no membership fee; a discount for customers picking up online orders in stores; grocery pickup in many markets around the world, and delivery from stores in some; and Jet Fresh delivery, which provides delivery of fresh groceries to homes in 1-2 days, now available to half of the U.S. population and growing. In keeping with this strategy, the company is currently testing an automated 20-foot-by-80-foot grocery kiosk in the parking lot of an Oklahoma City supercenter that allows customers who place orders online to easily pick up their groceries through an automated process, according to a report in The Oklahoman. The newspaper added that another innovative concept, known as a pickup tower, which enables online purchasers of general merchandise to retrieve their orders in a vending-machine type of format, is being tested in five stores in Bentonville, Detroit, Houston, Atlanta, and Raleigh, N.C.
The exec went on to exhort associates to “be lifelong learners.” Despite Walmart’s adoption of the latest technological advances, he emphasized, “The secret to our success will always be our peoplhe.” To that end, McMillon noted that the company is creating new jobs, including data scientists, machine-learning engineers and mobile app developers.
He also spoke about Walmart’s commitment to give back to the communities it serves, through such initiatives as pledges to source $20 billion from women-owned businesses – a goal that was achieved last year – and to source $250 billion in products that support American jobs over a 10-year period. McMillon also mentioned projects to source more local and sustainable products and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the company’s supply chain by 1 gigaton by 2030.
In other shareholders’ meeting news, Walmart revealed shareholder voting results, including that shareholders approved the election of each of Walmart’s 11 director nominees. Shareholders also voted in favor of a nonbinding advisory resolution to establish the frequency of one year for future advisory shareholder votes to approve the compensation of Walmart’s named executive officers; approved, on a nonbinding, advisory basis, the compensation of the company’s named executive officers described in its 2017 proxy statement; and ratified the appointment of Ernst & Young LLP as Walmart’s independent accounting firm.
Walmart operates 11,723 stores under 59 banners in 28 countries, and ecommerce websites in 11 countries, employing about 2.3 million associates worldwide.