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Walmart will soon be enabling businesses across its vast global organization to design, build, and deploy their own voice and bot applications across multiple platforms for their specific audiences.
The world’s largest retailer today announced plans to acquire technology assets of Botmock, a startup that has specialized software that makes it easy to build and deploy conversational applications using a no-code development platform. Financial details of the transaction were undisclosed at press time.
No- and low-code app creation, sometimes called citizen development, isn’t a new method of making software. But thanks to next-generation tools and more intuitive user interfaces that democratize the work and have come into the market during the last half-dozen years, the genre has found new life. So many added functions and adjustments to standard applications needed to be made for specific requirements that corporate developers were getting overwhelmed; now it’s possible for line-of-business employees to fine-tune — and sometimes create — applications to help optimize business processes.
No-code interface, a key to innovation
Botmock’s drag-and-drop interface enables non-technical teams to create conversational apps to better meet the needs of customers and associates in their individual spheres of influence. This interface and connecting APIs will add to Walmart’s existing conversational dev platform aimed at speeding up users’ ability to design, prototype, test, and deploy conversational experiences, the company said.
At the moment, current process and timelines “can take up to months for engineering and business teams to collaborate, build, test and deploy these experiences,” Cheryl Ainoa, Walmart’s senior VP of core retail services and emerging technology wrote in a LinkedIn blog post. Using Botmock’s IP, any internal teams – including non-technical people, such as HR or accounting – can do so in a matter of days, Ainoa wrote.
Botmock’s no-code platform features an intuitive drag-and-drop interface that automatically develops code in the background as conversation flows are created. By giving designers, merchants, customer service, and other non-technical teams access to these tools, Walmart can empower business owners from across its enterprise to create voice, chat, and intelligent assistant experiences, Ainoa said.
Shop smarter, not harder
“Building seamless interactions for voice or chat is a fairly difficult design problem that requires us to consider all possible conversational flows, which depend on customers’ unique situation and needs,” Ainoa said. “For example, when a customer is building their weekly grocery cart using their voice, they might say, ‘Add milk to my cart.’ The right action and the response to the customer depend on various factors, including if the customer has bought milk in the past, what their preferred type of milk is (such as 2%, non-fat, etc.). Do they already have some type of milk in their cart? If so, should we ask whether they want to change the quantity or let them know they already have it in their cart?”
Building these options for customers in the past would require engineers to work with Walmart’s product and design teams to design a simple prototype. Depending on the complexity of the issue, it could take weeks or months to deploy, Ainoa said.
“With Botmock’s technology, our teams can build and deploy the conversational experience in just a few days,” Aino said.
Walmart’s existing conversational platform enables voice shopping through Google and Siri, text shopping with Text to Shop, and customers to check-in for contactless pickup orders, Ainoa said. Walmart’s Ask Sam app allows business associates to find the location of products in stores simply by asking.
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