Walmart recently filed several patents that mentioned drones. One of the patents comprises of technologies that could change the way people shop at Walmart. For example, a customer would be assisted by a personal shopping drone. The patent will streamline customers in-store experience by using devices with sensors to create smart shopping carts that can communicate with handheld devices. This is intended to make navigation easier throughout the store.
One patent describes a system where drones can be requested via a mobile device. It can also be used to provide assistance such as price checking or navigation within their stores. So in the near future, you could walk into a Walmart, and request for a drone to help you shop. The drone could pick your items off of a shelf, check their weight, size, cost and even figure out delivery charges to your home. Basically, you’ll be a shopper assisted by a robotic checkout assistant. Walmart’s plans of using autonomous drone systems will save the company a lot of money in manpower and possibly pass along the savings to shoppers in terms of price reduction.
Whether any of these patents will actually be used to develop real drones is hard to tell. Companies frequently file patents that they never follow through on, but the concept of a future where drones are used as shopping assistants is interesting idea. In recent years, Walmart has continued to increase its efforts in developing technology and seems to be competing with Amazon and other retail giants. Late last year, Walmart raised prices for goods sold online versus those bought in the store. The company also entered into an agreement with Rakuten, a Japanese e-commerce company to be the exclusive retailer for their Kobo e-readers.
In February, Walmart reported that its e-commerce sales in America alone had risen to 23% over one year. Online, the company’s revenue also increased by 44%. It will be interesting to see how Walmart incorporates technology into the buyer experience in the upcoming years.