Walmart is using virtual reality to train more than 1 million in-store employees
Following a promising pilot program, Walmart has turned to virtual reality to train its more than 1 million U.S. in-store employees.
Every one of the company’s more than 5,000 locations by the end of the year will be stocked with Oculus Go VR machines, cheaper models compared to higher-end competitors, such as Dell’s HTC Vive. With input from Walmart, the California-based VR software creator STRIVR came up with 45 VR programs to train employees on just about everything related to in-store operations, from slicing deli meats to re-stocking items like kale and carrots. Though terms of the deal were not disclosed, the partnership works by STRIVR purchasing the devices from Oculus, then customizing them with Walmart-specified software.
The VR technology allows existing Walmart employees to learn new skills more quickly, and with less oversight, according to Brock McKeel, senior director of digital operations at Walmart.
“VR training provides a safe space for associates to experience situations that are nearly impossible to replicate,” McKeel said in a statement. “The training is experiential, memorable, and fast.”
It’s also more efficient. The technology stops Walmart from having to have to hire new on-boarding professionals, or else divert existing staffers to oversee training, according to Danny Belch, head of marketing for STRIVR.
“Training in corporate America is looking for something new and looking for a boost and is to the point where the performance is suffering and companies are just looking for better, faster, cheaper, more effective ways to train,” said Belch.
Walmart first started testing the technology two years ago. By the end of the year, there will be 17,000 Oculus devices split up between all of Walmart’s stores. The pilot started in 2016 at a handful of Walmart locations, before expanding to 200 of Walmart’s training “academies” — or off-site training locations — last year.
STRIVR has also struck deals with major American companies across a range of industries, including BMW, Fidelity, Chipotle and JetBlue.
Retailers have had a tough go figuring out how to use VR to entice customers, but the technology has compelling use cases for internal training and other back-end operations. L’Oréal in 2017 started using VR in its New York headquarters to speed up the research and development process for new product lines, cutting the process down from months to weeks. Chipotle, meanwhile, is using VR to get its employees up to speed on its burrito lines more quickly.
For Walmart’s purposes, VR also allows for employees to be trained for worst-case scenarios that don’t happen often but require a clear-cut plan, said Anindya Ghose, a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business. He cited Hurricane Florence as a recent example.
“It’s costly to create an environment for training that doesn’t happen that often,” said Ghose. “You’re trying to train employees for some weather-related disaster, so creating an environment like that in the real world is going to be tricky or expensive. So, why not have employees simulate that? In this way, you save a bunch of money.”
Marat Bakpayev, assistant professor of marketing at the Labovitz School of Business and Economics at University of Minnesota Duluth, blamed expensive and uncomfortable headsets or the need for high-end computers for VR’s inability to gain mainstream traction. Augmented reality has been an easier sell for retailers, including Williams Sonoma. But Bakpayev said such corporate partnerships in the meantime are key for companies like Oculus, adding that employees exposed to the technology for work may well end up buying a VR headset for their home.
“It’s going to be growing more and more, I believe,” said Bakpayev. “That’s one of the cool things about emerging technologies in general.”
Member ExclusiveFashion marketers prepare for supply chain sustainability — and disruption
Fashion marketers are working overtime to understand what's next — including supply chain and sustainability.
Cheat Sheet: Shopify’s Shop Pay integration will share customer purchase data with Google
Allowing retailers to sell for free, and adding more payment options, makes Google itself more of a shopping tool.
LG kicks off series of live stream shopping events produced in-house
If a consumer sees something they like, they can click on the product and will be taken out to the LG website to complete their purchase.
SponsoredHow advertisers are shifting mindsets to succeed amid iOS 15 and other identity challenges
On top of the impending cookie deprecation, Apple’s recent iOS 15 changes are causing concern for many advertisers by affecting pixels, IP addresses and email addresses. While these upcoming changes may be concerning for many, shifting mindsets and getting away from a binary way of thinking with solutions being 100% contextual or 100% universal IDs […]
Loyal and App-y: How QSRs are leaning into rewards programs to boost mobile orders and sales
Brands were forced to find ways to reach customers in their homes and fast-food restaurants, including McDonald’s and Burger King, found answers by investing in loyalty programs.
Cheat sheet: Etsy beats earnings, turns focus to adding more revenue sources
Etsy is still growing beyond a blast of mask sales last year and now needs to manage 4.7 million sellers and 90 million buyers.