Walmart is set to open a new tech hub in Austin, Texas focused on developing technologies to improve back-end processes, including finance, governance, human relations, employee training and manufacturing.
Driving back of store efficiencies
512 Tech reports that the facility, whose design is reflective of the start-up community, will open later this month. With a focus on developing technology-based solutions to drive back of store efficiencies, the team will optimise emerging technologies including machine learning, artificial intelligence, blockchain and IoT.
Access to a new pool of talent
Jason Norris, Director of Engineering for Walmart Tech ATX, stated the decision to locate in Austin was in part to access the pool of talent in the city. “At Walmart we are really changing the way we work in a lot of ways. Austin is a really unique city in that you have a very deep pool of that talent, but you don’t incur some of those higher costs of living that you do on the West Coast and East Coast.” He expects to the team to grow from 13 to 60 people over the next six months.
Looking to emulate success of Walmart Labs
This approach reflects how Walmart established Walmart Labs in 2011. This unit, which was initially developed following an acquisition, went on to acquire more than 15 other companies with the goal of advancing Walmart.com with a focus on social, mobile and local. This has evolved over the last seven years and currently includes Walmart Ecommerce and store technology teams. The focus is on creating the world’s leading retail platform to enable the most seamless customer experience, increasing operating efficiencies while decreasing enterprise expenses and ensuring that store and corporate associates have access to secure digital solutions.
Complements Store No.8’s store focus
While the new unit in Austin will focus on back-end efficiencies, last year Walmart established Store No.8 to assess the opportunities for innovative technologies such as virtual reality, artificial intelligence and driverless vehicles within the retail environment. Earlier this month, it acquired VR platform and content studio, Spatialand, which will create the foundation of the incubator’s third portfolio company behind Code Eight and Project Franklin.
Bridging the gap with the future Walmart
Setting up these tech-led units demonstrates how Walmart is looking at the opportunities for the business over the longer term. While it is currently building its ecommerce business and reinventing its store formats to ensure their future relevance, these three divisions will help it to bridge the gap between its legacy store business and the next three to five years while driving further efficiencies within the organisation.