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Grocery Industry Heats up with Patents

Grocery Industry Heats up with Patents

fabio-bracht-694774-unsplashWalmart, the leading online and offline grocer of 2017, appears to be upping its technology game. Their recent patent applications and investments speak for themselves.

In June, I wrote about how Amazon was stealing the show with their omnichannel operations.  Fast forward just a few months and it is clear that Walmart won’t be caught sitting on the sidelines.

Walmart is known for its willingness to gamble big on experimentation. You can’t win if you don’t try, right? Just recently they submitted two patents that look to create more same-day shopping convenience, especially for customers who do not own a car. There’s no proof these patents will see the light of day, but boy do they create some buzz.

According to Investor’s Business Daily, the recent patents serve to boost Walmart’s innovation in the e-commerce grocery world. These patents consist of:

1)    Temperature-controlled delivery trucks
The retailer giant’s recent delivery vehicle patent includes three temperature zones and conveyor belts that can move products around telling us that Walmart has its eyes set on grocery delivery.

2)    Docking stations with removable lockers
Focuses more on do-it-yourself grocery transportation. Customers could rent these lockers, subscribe, or even buy one for long-term use. This service would cater to customers who use public transportation and could also be used by travelers in airports.  The patent outlines other possibilities for the lockers – like propulsion to drive the wheels for easy transport home.

It doesn’t stop there though! Walmart has filed for more than a dozen virtual-reality (VR) patents; however right now they are more shopper-focused and will be used less for internal business operations says Bloomberg.

Just a few days after the grocery delivery patents, Walmart announced an application for a virtual fulfillment center and showroom utilizing VR headsets and gloves. This would give shoppers a 3-D experience outside of the store before purchasing.  For potential shoppers who dislike the crowds, this could allow them to wander digital aisles from the comfort of their own home with items picked and shipped by a fully automated center. Who else thinks that’s incredibly cool?

Other patents include VR tech with a floating warehouse, using drones to deliver their goods.

If Walmart’s VR technology comes to fruition and rolls out, it will be a major disruptor for an industry taking multichannel operations to a new level.

What I find ironic about this is that Walmart is aggressively pursuing digital technology at a time when tech companies, like Amazon are trying to establish themselves with brick-and-mortar storefronts. The battle for the top continues…