Walmart using machine learning to gain competitive advantage

re-work deep learning summit pic

Walmart is a big proponent of artificial intelligence and machine learning, as well as deep learning, according to comments by Alessandro Magnani, data scientist at Walmart Labs. 

Speaking at the ongoing Re-Work Deep Learning in Retail & Advertising Summit, in London, Magnani said: “We heavily use machine learning in product recommendation.

“Say you’re looking at a pair of jeans and we want to recommend you something similar so we do this based on user history, and each product can be abstracted.”

Retailers, in general, are turning to AI and ML to find better ways to interact with existing and potential customers, both in-store and online.

Walmart is probably the largest brick-and-mortar retailer in the world, with about 6,400 stores in the US, mainly selling groceries.

Its online presence is limited in comparison to Amazon, which is believed to be the world’s largest online retailer.

Walmart has understandably concentrated on its physical stores business, which tends to rely less on tech and more on traditional marking and advertising, and plain old presence in a locality.

But Walmart has lately been taking more of an interest in technology, working with Google on a voice-activated ordering system among other things.

The company has also recently expanded its online grocery delivery operation to 100 cities in the US.

This will probably bring it in into more direct competition with Amazon, which recently acquired Whole Food Market and also delivers groceries to the home through its Amazon Fresh service.

Walmart’s online business is probably growing, but apparently, a former employee is claiming that the company is exaggerating its success to “win the e-commerce war at all costs”.

Meanwhile, back at the Re-Work event, online-only clothes retailer ASOS is also showing itself to be a big believer in AI and ML, as well as DL.

Fabio Daolio, data scientist at ASOS, says “deep learning can leverage unstructured and partially labelled data in order to consolidate product attributes”.

This makes the suggestions of other products to customers more accurate and more likely to result in a sale.

As well as retail, deep learning is also having an impact on the financial sector, healthcare and many others. Among the other companies whose speakers are representing them at the Re-Work deep learning event are Sky, Royal Mail, Argos and Vodafone.

Nikita Johnson, Re-Work’s deep learning summit creator, says: “New technological and scientific discoveries are advancing at an exponential rate so it’s important to explore how they will help to shape future business and society.”