What is Walmart’s Automated Warehouse Alphabot Technology?

Can you say retail automation? That might be one of the trends for retail in the 2020s. I bring you exhibit A, the robots are coming.

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I believe in 2020 Walmart becomes a technology company, and not just a retailer. Of course this is necessary to compete with the likes of Amazon.

Walmart just unveiled a new technology that could help defend its position as America’s largest grocer. Walmart’s pilots in robots is something at the Last Futurist we’ve been covering for years.

Floor scrubbing and shelf stock tracker robots are neat, but robots have many functions. Walmart is betting on grocery-shopping robots to help it win.


So how is this different? Walmart unveiled a new technology, called Alphabot, for its grocery business.It says the platform should enable it to pick, pack and deliver shoppers’ online grocery orders faster and with fewer headaches. It has been testing Alphabot since the middle of 2019 at a Walmart Supercenter in Salem, New Hampshire.

Here we are talking about a major step in retail automation with robotics.

What is Alphabot?

According to Retail Dive, Alphabot is involved in the the use of storage and retrieval robotics, dubbed Alphabot, that increases the speed of online grocery order pickup, according to blog post.

Bloomberg goes as far as to call it a “robot-run warehouse”. If that’s the case, this is the kind of technology the likes of JD.com have had for years. China’s “new retail” does appear to have some advantages in the race to E-commerce automation. I also have a keen eye on South Korea’s Amazon.

It’s really all about warehouse and logistics automation, that improves speed of delivery, something that’s so expensive for Amazon itself currently.

Walmart is Testing a Number of Robots

Walmart is gaining valuable experience with automation and has a number of robots that it can scale, which could impact American jobs as it is the biggest employer in the United States. Furthermore Walmart appears to think it has a technological weapon that will enable it to pick, pack and deliver shoppers’ online grocery orders faster as the company tries to strengthen its foothold as America’s largest grocer.

It has been a bit under the radar to be honest.

The company has been quietly testing the machines for months in a small town in New Hampshire for months. It appears now in 2020, Alphabot may be ready for the prime-time.

Is this a micro-retail innovation? Or just what we could consider the “new normal”? Retailers beware!

  • Alphabot’s robotic carts quickly retrieve items and deliver them to employees at a picking station, who then pack and deliver the order to customers’ cars in the parking lot.
  • Retailers call the process micro-fulfillment, and some analysts say it’s the most promising technology to hit food retail in years.
  • Alphabet is seen as primarily a tool for the grocery retail sector.

We have to keep in mind Amazon has mostly failed to make a dent in the grocery sector vs. Walmart thus far. Grocery sales account for 56% of Walmart’s total U.S. revenue. Walmart is a pretty dominant figure here. You can see some of the pictures here.

Alphabot is apparently a collaboration with startup Alert Innovation.

Walmart is a beast in grocery, with staggering numbers. Total revenue was up 2.5% to $127.99 billion, from $124.89 billion a year earlier. The BOPIS trend is legendary, think about the scale of how we will order groceries in the future. Today, Walmart has nearly 3,100 pickup locations for online grocery orders across the U.S., with more than 1,400 stores offering same-day grocery delivery and about 1,400 pickup towers.

Walmart, Amazon, Kroger and others in this business know the concept of ordering groceries online is still in its early stages, especially in the U.S. Everyone knows ordering groceries is the future, with smart fridges that will one day automate the process with robotic delivery – hard to imagine all of this is coming.

Today, A mere 3% of grocery spending takes place online in the U.S., according to Bain & Co. research.

How Fast Will Grocery Delivery Grow?

But online grocery sales are expected to capture as much as 20% of total grocery retail by 2025, reaching $100 billion, based on a separate study by the Food Marketing Institute conducted by Nielsen.

Do you believe robots can disrupt retail and that automation will change the warehouse of the future?

When we witness what Walmart, Alibaba, Amazon and JD.com are doing, it appears so. Target, Kroger and even Costco have to keep up, among others.

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