Drones: The Future of Walmart Customer Service?

Amazon isn’t the only company that plans to use drones to improve customer service and delivery—Walmart recently also filed a patent to bring drones to its stores and bridge the gap between searching for items on a mobile device and actually locating them in Walmart’s massive physical stores.

According to its patent, Walmart envisions its drone use case this way: “If, for example, the user has requested navigation assistance to an item selected from a virtual shopping list on the mobile electronic device, the computing device can control the aerial drone to provide navigation assistance to guide the user to the location of the selected item.”

Whether this endeavor is a gimmick or a strategic move that’ll pay off remains to be seen. For one thing, by introducing drones, Walmart is eliminating the need for something that gives physical retail an advantage over e-commerce—human interaction.

“Sixty-five percent of consumers report that staff interaction highly influences their decision to buy more from a brand. They appreciate expertise and a friendly experience. Furthermore, positive, memorable experiences are greatly influenced by human interaction, specifically being treated special,” says customer service expert and author Shep Hyken. “That’s hard for a drone or robot to provide.”

In addition to drones, Walmart is making other technology investments to boost customer experience as well—the company recently filed a patent for smart cart technology, which also promises to simplify the process of finding specific items in stores.

Despite these brick-and-mortar moves, the company remains laser-focused on e-commerce, and providing leading-edge customer service on that platform. Earlier in June, Walmart introduced JetBlack, a stand-alone personalized shopping app that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to make purchase decisions for consumers and provide personalized support at the touch of a button.

Jenny Fleiss, cofounder and CEO of this Walmart offshoot, said in a statement that the app will help make shopping "frictionless":

“With Jetblack, we have created an entirely new concept that enables consumers to get exactly what they need through the convenience of text messaging and the freedom of a nearly unlimited product catalog. We are confident this service will make shopping frictionless, more personalized, and delightful.”

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