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Maximizing Efficiency: Walmart’s Agile Approach to Product Matching with Machine Learning

Efficiency curve on the rise

ARTICLE SUMMARY

In the fast-paced retail industry, Walmart remains innovative and customer-centric by enhancing product matching through machine learning.

IN TODAY’S FAST-PACED RETAIL LANDSCAPE, STAYING AHEAD OF CUSTOMER DEMANDS AND BEING IN COMPETITION IS CRUCIAL.

Walmart, a global retail giant, has long been at the forefront of innovation, constantly seeking ways to enhance customer experience and streamline operations. One area where they have made significant strides is in product matching, a critical process in the e-commerce space. This involves accurately identifying and linking similar or identical products across various data sources, such as suppliers, in-store inventory, and other online listings so that they can offer value to the customers.

THE CHALLENGE:

Product matching is a very challenging task. With thousands of products across numerous categories, each with its own unique identifier, description, and specifications, manual matching would be impractical, time-consuming, and error-prone. This is where machine learning comes into play.

Agile Principles in Machine Learning Walmart has adopted an agile approach to implementing machine learning solutions in its product matching process. Agile methodology emphasizes flexibility, collaboration, and customer-centricity, which are invaluable traits in a rapidly evolving industry like retail.

1. ITERATIVE DEVELOPMENT:

• Walmart’s ML teams work in short, iterative sprints. They continually refine and enhance their algorithms based on feedback and new data. This allows for rapid adaptation to changing market dynamics and emerging technologies. For e.g.: one iteration could among of the their product departments like F&B or Clothing.

2. CROSS-FUNCTIONAL TEAMS:

Engineers, data scientists, domain experts, and product managers collaborate closely. This multidisciplinary approach ensures that the machine learning models are not only technically sound but also aligned with their defined business goals and customer needs.

3. CUSTOMER FEEDBACK INTEGRATION:

• Customer feedback is invaluable in refining product matching algorithms. Walmart actively seeks and incorporates input from both customers and internal stakeholders. This feedback loop helps in training the models to be more accurate and relevant.

4. CONTINUOUS DEPLOYMENT:

• Machine learning models are not static entities. Walmart employs continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD) pipelines to push out updates swiftly. This enables them to respond quickly to changing market conditions and maintain a competitive edge.

HOW MACHINE LEARNING ENHANCES PRODUCT MATCHING?

Walmart leverages a range of machine learning techniques to tackle the complexities of product matching, out of those the 2 are:

1. NATURAL LANGUAGE PROCESSING (NLP):

NLP algorithms analyze product descriptions to extract relevant information. This helps in identifying similar products even if they are described differently. These algorithms are designed to identify and extract key information from these descriptions, such as product features, specifications, and attributes. This capability is crucial for accurately matching products, as it enables the system to recognize similarities even when items are described using different words or phrases. By utilizing NLP, retailers like Walmart can enhance the precision and efficiency of their product matching processes, ultimately leading to a more seamless and accurate shopping experience for customers. For e.g.: Lotus Biscoff 125g & Lotus Biscoff might be the same product across different retailers.

2. IMAGE RECOGNITION:

• Machine learning models trained on vast image datasets can identify similar products based on visual attributes. This is especially useful for items where appearance is a key factor. For example: Shoes and accessories.

HOW DID THIS BENEFIT THE END-USER/CUSTOMERS?

By adopting an agile approach to machine learning in product matching, Walmart has achieved several benefits:

1. IMPROVED SEARCH RELEVANCE:

Customers can now find the products they want faster and with greater accuracy.

2. REDUCED CART ABANDONMENT:

Accurate product matching minimizes instances of customers adding the wrong item to their cart.

3. INCREASED SALES AND CUSTOMER SATISFACTION:

When customers find what they’re looking for quickly, it translates into higher conversion rates and happier customers.

4. STREAMLINED SUPPLY CHAIN OPERATIONS:

Accurate matching reduces errors in inventory management, leading to better stock availability and fewer overstock situations.

In conclusion, Walmart’s agile approach to product matching through machine learning is a testament to its commitment to innovation and customer-centricity. By leveraging the power of AI and embracing agile principles, they continue to set the bar for excellence in the retail industry.

As the retail landscape continues to evolve, it’s safe to assume that Walmart’s dedication to innovation and agile methodologies will keep them at the forefront of the industry for years to come

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