Retailers are using virtual reality, technology to win the holidays


As retailers gear up for the busiest shopping season of the year, companies are turning to new technology features like virtual reality to train employees and draw in shoppers.

Retailers like Walmart and Target are adding new technology to compete with online retailers like Amazon that offer convenience and quickness to customers. The fight to lure customers into stores is more important than ever for stores, as economists predict this will be the first holiday season that online shopping outpaces brick-and-mortar retail sales.

Walmart is turning to virtual reality to prep new employees before the season. In 2016, Walmart opened six training academies in Ohio to teach associates advanced retail skills, leadership and specifics on how to run individual store departments.

» RELATED: 3 retailers coming to The Greene in Beavercreek

Last year, Walmart launched a pilot program to implement virtual reality in 31 of its Training Academies and has since rolled it out to all academies. Virtual reality allows Walmart to train associates in scenarios that are difficult or impossible to recreate in a store. Some of the these scenarios include the holiday rush on Black Friday, spills and disruptive incidents, said Brad Terry, Walmart’s e-commerce manager for the region.

The retailer has added its new Pickup Towers in stores across the U.S., including the Middletown store. The tower allows customers to order items online and pick up them up in stores for no shipping costs — and they don’t have to wait in any check-out lines. Walmart is also using robots to help stock shelves at 50 stores across the country.

The robots, which stand about two-feet-tall and are outfitted with cameras, help them scan aisles and identify missing or mislabeled inventory across the store. The robots also check for mispriced items, and give the information to employees who fix the issues.

» RELATED: Toys”R”Us announces Thanksgiving, Black Friday hours

Walmart officials say the robots can scan and search for items more efficiently than humans can. “If you are running up and down the aisle and you want to decide if we are out of Cheerios or not, a human doesn’t do that job very well, and they don’t like it,” chief technology officer for Walmart U.S. and e-commerce, Jeremy King told Reuters.

“From our perspective, when you’re doing things like this you’re trying to improve your service to your customers and trying to make things simpler and easier for your associates at the same time,” John Crecelius, Walmart’s vice president of central operations, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

» RELATED: 10 retailers file for bankruptcy in 2017

Humans don’t have to be worried about their jobs anytime soon, Walmart officials said. The robots do not have arms, so they can’t pick any products up in the aisles, said Martin Hitch, chief business officer at Bossa Nova Robotics.

Walmart isn’t the only retailer transforming stores with technology. Meijer launched home delivery services in Dayton and Cincinnati this year, and Toys R Us vowed to turn stores into “digital playgrounds” with its new augmented reality app. Target Corp. announced back in March that it would redesign its stores, investing billions of dollars in the next three years.

The renovations include: dedicated parking where workers will bring out online orders; a second entrance will allow “time-starved” customers to easily navigate the grocery area, a wine and beer shop, self-checkout lanes and an order pick-up station; and circular center aisles that will have displays that engage customers with “compelling products in unexpected places.”

» RELATED: Dorothy Lane Market launches new ordering app

Target workers will have new technology that will allow them to search inventory and take payment from a mobile point-of-sale system from the sales floor. The redesign comes as part of the company’s strategy to “create a smart network, with stores, digital channels and supply chain,” according to a company statement.

As retailers thrust brick-and-mortar stores into the future, Amazon is offering stiff competition. The online retailer has announced fulfillment centers across Ohio, including one in Monroe that will bring 1,000 jobs to the region. The fulfillment centers mean local customers can expect their packages even sooner than before.

» RELATED: Amazon to sell handcrafted items from artisans

The online giant is taking convenience to the next level with its new service Amazon Key, which launches in 37 cities this week. The new service allows customers to have their packages securely delivered inside their home without having to be there. Using the Amazon Key app, customers can track their delivery with real-time notifications, watch the delivery happening live or review a video of the delivery after it is complete.

“Amazon Key gives customers peace of mind knowing their orders have been safely delivered to their homes and are waiting for them when they walk through their doors,” said Peter Larsen, Amazon’s vice president of delivery technology. “Now, Prime members can select in-home delivery and conveniently see their packages being delivered right from their mobile phones.”

CONTINUED COVERAGE

The Dayton Daily News is committed to bringing you in-depth coverage on holiday retail — work made possible by your subscription. Count on us to bring you the latest news during the busiest shopping season of the year.

FIVE FAST BUSINESS READS

UberEATS launches food delivery services in Dayton

Dayton retailer brings Southern culture to Ohio

5 ways local communities gave back during Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Robots have invaded Walmart: 5 things you need to know

Target to offer free online shipping in November on all orders



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Business

Spectrum reports TV streaming app service issues
Spectrum reports TV streaming app service issues

Spectrum customers are reporting service interruptions while attempting to use the Spectrum TV app, the company said on Friday afternoon. “Spectrum customers are experiencing a service interruption while attempting to use the Spectrum TV App. This is causing errors including incorrect login information. Technicians are working diligently to restore...
Chamber welcomes new board members
Chamber welcomes new board members

The Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce is welcoming new board of trustees members while thanking retiring members. The new chamber board members are: MORE: Manufacturing wins help push Ohio jobless rate down Doug Anspach, Leadership Dayton chair and partner in Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP; Doug Barry, president of BarryStaff Inc.; Randy Domigan, director...
Amazon raises monthly Prime membership rate
Amazon raises monthly Prime membership rate

The monthly membership fee for Amazon Prime rose Friday from $10.99 to $12.99. Company officials said the annual membership will remain at $99 dollars. Monthly customers do not get access to Amazon Video, which costs $8.99 a month. The last Prime subscription hike came in 2014, when Amazon increased its yearly membership from $79 to $99. The e-commerce...
Starbucks testing out stores that do not accept cash
Starbucks testing out stores that do not accept cash

Starbucks is testing out a cashless checkout in stores nationwide. As of Tuesday, one downtown Seattle store accepts only cards or mobile payments, according to a report from KIRO-7. The coffee chain is receiving mixed reviews from customers, some who like the convenience while others worry about privacy issues. Robert Safian, editor of Fast Company...
Top tips for selling your old stuff on eBay (and actually making cash)
Top tips for selling your old stuff on eBay (and actually making cash)

Too much clutter, too little money, too many gifts you didn't like... an eBay auction is one of the simplest solutions to all three issues. If your trash might be someone else's treasure, an eBay business is simple to start and accessible to just about anyone. "It has low start-up costs and it can be started out of your home," noted the ...
More Stories