Hands-on with Walmart’s new (but buggy) ‘Text to Shop’ feature • TheTechWarrior

Walmart recently introduced a new way to shop: via text message. Last month, the retail giant launched its “Text to Shop” experience, which allows mobile consumers on both iOS and Android devices to text Walmart with the items they want to purchase from their local stores or Walmart.com, or simply reorder items. can order for pick up, delivery or shipping. However, the chat experience as it stands now doesn’t come across as completely baked, as our tests found. The chatbot said confusing things and the user interface was difficult to navigate at times, despite the push for a simpler text-based shopping experience.

Conversational commerce, or shopping via SMS, is an area that has seen increased investment in recent years with numerous start-ups entering the market. Walmart also has connections to this space, as former head of US e-commerce Marc Lore backed a conversational commerce startup, Wizard. And Walmart itself acquired assets from a design tool called Botmock, which had built technology that allowed companies to design, prototype, test and deploy conversational commerce applications.

The new “Text to Shop” feature, meanwhile, was built in-house using internal IP in conjunction with Walmart’s Global Tech team and tested with customers prior to launch. The beta version was available about a year before the December public debut, but was accessible by invitation only.

At launch, the “Text to Shop” feature will allow customers to purchase Walmart’s full range via chat, whether that’s your weekly grocery order at a nearby store or an e-commerce order you want delivered to your home.

Image credit: Walmart

More recently, customers began receiving emails alerting them to the new availability of “Text to Shop”, prompting our testing. The feature was also highlighted in Apple’s announcement of its new Apple Business Connect dashboard, which allows businesses to manage and update their information on Apple Maps. Here, Walmart partnered with Apple to allow customers visiting the Walmart business listing map on Apple Maps to tap a “Message Us” button to get started with a “Text to Shop” session.

In theory, chat-based shopping should simplify online shopping by bringing it into a more familiar texting interface. But in practice, Walmart’s chatbot made some missteps when we tried it, making for a more cumbersome experience compared to a traditional order placed through the Walmart website or app.

However, the first steps to getting started with “Text to Shop” were easy, as you just log into your Walmart account and agree to the terms. The bot will then send you a helpful introduction and some tips on how the system works. For example, it tells you that you can just type in the names of items you want, such as “Great Value Oatmeal” and explains how to set up your local store, among other things.

Image Credits: Screenshot of Walmart Text to Shop

But it was already clear that the system would have a few quirks, as it informed you that items you typed in single quotes would serve as commands.

For example, if you type “Reorder” in quotes, you can buy things again. This seemed like an odd requirement, given that the word “reorder” probably wouldn’t correspond to a product a customer wanted to buy through text-based shopping – or at least it should be assumed that a text containing that word is a command . In addition, it puts an unnecessary burden on the end user at a time when they are just starting to learn a new system.

During my tests, I ordered a few basic items, such as milk, eggs, bread, and water. The system didn’t immediately alert me that I had leftover items in my shopping cart from an online order I placed weeks ago.

The system also doesn’t ask you on your first text to choose whether you want to start an order for delivery, pickup or shipping. Instead, it returns a selection of options that match your request. But the way that happened was confusing.

In my test I typed in “2% milk” and it responded twice with possible options. “OK! 2% milk, 3 choices coming up,” the bot said, followed by a link that takes you to a list. But then it replied again, “These are the best options I’ve found for 2% milk,” and offered another list.

After choosing an item, you’re instructed to “select one of these options,” which offered choices such as “search for pickup,” “search for shipping,” or “search for delivery.”

It seems like asking the customer how they were shopping should have been the first step, especially if product availability varies by order type. In this test I chose delivery.

Then the bot texted me that I now had 6 things in my cart – a surprise, since I hadn’t remembered my previous abandoned choices.

It was against me, though, I admitted. I tapped “View Cart” to remove the weeks old selections. The bot did not immediately show the shopping cart. Instead, it responds with your item count and total. You must then tap on a link that follows to view the shopping cart, which will appear in another screen. I expected this to work like a web version of a Walmart checkout page, the screen lacked obvious tools to remove items or change quantities, which you would normally find on an ecommerce cart page.

In fact, the interface instructs you to “tap to view, select, or delete,” but presents radio buttons to tap, then a “Submit” button at the bottom to… well, I don’t know.

How would it know if I instructed it to show me the item or delete it? I wondered. And why should I look at the item elsewhere if the full name, photo, quantity and price are listed here?

Still, I tapped “Submit” to delete the old items (which weren’t the newly added milk), only to be returned to the main chat screen where I was inaccurately informed, “Okay, all the milk out!” Now my cart had 5 things he said. It had only removed one of my selections.

I tried again, tapping the other 5 items to be removed, and again the bot replied, “Okay, all the milk out!”

In reality, the milk was all that was left. The robot was wrong.

Image Credits: Screenshot of Walmart Text to Shop

Now, with only the milk left (despite the opposing texts), the bot asked me what I wanted to do next – maybe view cart or checkout?

This is a very stupid bot, I thought. Does someone only receive milk and nothing else?

I wasn’t ready for that, so I tried another question. “Eggs,” I typed. The bot returned only three choices: all large white eggs from the Walmart brand, but in different sizes. Strange, since I know Walmart, like most retailers, has a much larger selection of eggs.

Image Credits: Screenshot of Walmart Text to Shop

“Organic eggs,” I texted, hoping for better egg options. This worked and I added Pete and Gerry’s eggs to the cart with no problem. The bot has now updated me on my total. My cart had two items, milk and eggs, and my subtotal was $10.40. (I’m not sure it’s a good idea to tell the customer the running price if they don’t ask! Yuck!)

Then I tried something to deliberately confuse the system. Knowing that end users often don’t play by the script, I scrolled back up to tap “Get” instead of “Deliver.” This is the kind of thing a customer might do if they feel opting for takeout would offer them a different selection of eggs. But the bot didn’t make that logical leap and asked “Sure, what product would you like to find for pickup?”

“Don’t worry,” I texted. “No problem. Talk to you later,” the bot replied.

I then proceeded to add the next item on my list. “La Crox,” I texted.

“These are the best options I’ve found for organic eggs from la croix to pick up,” the bot replied. eh? What?

I had obviously confused this bot quite a bit it seems.

It then texts me a list to view and then asks me to select the delivery method, then texts the list again. It left only three La Croix options to choose from. However, a search on the Walmart app turned up 10.

This system is apparently not useful at all unless you enter a very specific choice.

That realization made me dread my next item: bread. I didn’t have a brand in mind as I usually browse and look for offers from favorite types and brands. I ask for “multigrain bread” and I’m only presented with three options in addition to another message telling me I can “search by pick up” or “ship by”. I now understand that these delivery choices are apparently texted each time you request an item, rather than the system building you a shopping cart for a particular mode of delivery. (I didn’t touch these options because I would have the items delivered.)

“Checkout,” I then texted – without the single quotes, just as a regular user probably would, having forgotten the previous command syntax that used quotes.

And it worked. You could then choose to view the shopping cart or checkout, and book a delivery time via a separate screen.

However, there were other strange UI choices here as well.

For example, this screen provided you with an option to change the “amount” of the selected items, which was not possible before. I tapped the “Change Quantity” button (since I’m rethinking those expensive eggs right now!). This sent an automated command, to which the system replied, “Can you please rephrase that?”

Image Credits: Screenshot of Walmart Text to Shop

I’m wondering if some of the issues with the bot are because it somehow didn’t know my local store, even though it’s already configured under my Walmart account – which I authenticated with.

“Set store,” I typed, even using the single quote format.

The bot told me to choose my location and texted me two options. Both were my home address, without the house number. Both were identical options.

At this point, it feels like the process of ordering a few basic things has become an ordeal and has taken much longer than the traditional method of searching the Walmart app and adding things to the cart. If this kind of conversational trading is the future, I’d say it’s still a work in progress.

I left the shopping cart and did not complete the order.

When I asked Walmart about some of the issues I encountered and wondered if this was all still a beta test, a spokesperson said the company would “continue to refine and optimize Text to Shop to ensure we give our customers the best possible experience.” offer.” .”

Let’s hope!