Thanks to the affordability of Oculus Go standalone virtual reality headsets, Walmart announced today that it will use Go hardware and STRIVR software to train over one million of its U.S. employees. The retailer says it will provide every associate-level employee with VR access to the same training offered at the company’s academy facilities.
By year’s end, Walmart will distribute over 17,000 headsets to its U.S. stores: four per SuperCenter and two per Neighborhood Market and discount store. The headsets will reach a million employees across nearly 5,000 locations, and will get used primarily to brief associates on new technology, compliance, and “soft skills” including empathy and customer service.
Prior to full-scale deployment, Walmart and STRIVR did a 10-store pilot test of the VR training, enabling associates to see and practice loading the Pickup Tower, a new online order pickup option, before it was even physically installed. STRIVR’s software has also been in use in the company’s academies, where managers and executives are trained. At this point, there are over 45 educational modules for Walmart’s use.
Walmart expects that the lessons will reach “those on the floor who interact with customers the most,” an important development given how customer interactions have historically challenged the low-priced retailer. “When you watch a module through the headset, your brain feels like you actually experienced a situation,” explained Walmart senior director of U.S. Academies Andy Trainor. “We’ve also seen that VR training boosts confidence and retention while improving test scores 10 to 15 percent.”
STRIVR notes that Walmart will be using its platform “to create, manage, and deploy virtual training on all aspects of store operations,” including the ability “to monitor who is using VR and how they have been using it,” as well as “to analyze behavior and common patterns that arise during training.” That might sound somewhat creepy today, but it’s likely to become more common as VR training continues to advance in the workplace — and with so many new users getting their first exposure to VR at work, it bodes well for future growth of both home and business VR solutions.