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Walmart recently applied for a patent for a system that allows customers to preview food items selected for their online orders through pictures,according toCB Insights.
The system, which is referred to as a “Fresh Online Experience” in the patent, would use 3D scanning to show online shoppers in-store items.
The system gives customers the ability to choose the exact items that will be put into their orders. After a customer places an order, a store associate uses a 3D scanner to scan items they pull from Walmart’s inventory.
The visual is uploaded to a platform by the store associate and sent to the customer, who then receives a notification to review the item. Customers can reject the item selected, but are limited to a fixed number of attempts, after which they're prompted to select from one of the previous options that had been sent to them. Once the customer approves an item, it receives an “edible watermark” and is then packed for delivery. Walmart may automate the scanning portion of the system to increase efficiency.
This may help Walmart compete better with Amazon in online grocery. Amazon currently leads in online grocery, a segment which generated $2 billion in revenue in 2017 for the e-commerce titan. However, most of its sales came from packaged food products, and it garners very little sales from fresh foods. Most customers prefer to pick out their groceries, especially when it comes to fresh products.
As such, Walmart’s new system may help it gain an edge over Amazon, especially if these 3D visuals can reassure customers that they'll be able to pick out quality produce without having to physically see them.