How Two Big-Box Retailers Are Using AI

Walmart and Target incorporate chat bots and tech for fruit sourcing.

June 21, 2024

Amid uncertainty around how retailers can implement AI and what practical applications it may have, big retail chains are finding ways to use the technology to save time and streamline efficiency.

Target is equipping its store associates with a generative AI chatbot that will help them assist customers faster and more easily answer their questions. According to Chain Store Age, the technology is called Store Companion, and is “a proprietary generative AI chatbot that can perform tasks such as answering on-the-job process questions, coach new team members and support store operations management.”

The new chatbot will be available as an app on handheld employee devices, providing immediate answers to questions about processes and procedures. For example, associates can input prompts like "How do I sign a guest up for a Target Circle Card?" and "How do I restart the cash register in the event of a power outage?" and receive instructions and resources in seconds, the outlet reported.

Target is piloting Store Companion in 400 stores. The retailer is also using generative AI at its headquarters for customer-facing solutions, including product pages with summarized reviews and AI-generated product descriptions and search capabilities that curate the most relevant results.

Chain Store Age also profiled Walmart’s new AI initiative—smart fruit sourcing. The retailer is partnering with crop supply intelligence company Agritask to use “remote sensing and data analytics tools … to enable sourcing managers to make more well-informed decisions on seasonal fruit crop yields such as cherries and blackberries.” The technology aims to ensure supply amounts, reduce food waste and guarantee fresh produce.

Walmart is piloting the technology in blackberry and cherry crops in the U.S. and Mexico.

"Dealing with challenges in purchasing and planning accuracy in agriculture due to data discrepancies and environmental uncertainties can be tough," said Kyle Carlyle, VP of sourcing innovation and surety of supply at Walmart. "Agritask’s technology has the potential to fill vital information gaps that sourcing managers often face when predicting yield."

Walmart also recently started piloting digital price signage that can be updated in seconds, and is planning to replace paper price labels at 2,300 of its stores by 2026.