Human employees at the Salem store pick fresh items, such as apples and lettuce, for online grocery orders. Alphabot handles everything else, such as canned soup, frozen foods, refrigerated milk, and light bulbs.
Walmart's online grocery store includes many non-food items that can be found in various departments of its vast supercenters. Alphabot stores shoppers' most frequent purchases, based on Walmart's sales data.
Thirty of these robots operate in the Salem Alphabot. The system will eventually ramp up to add 20 more bots.
Jefferies analysts crowned Walmart's online fulfillment strategy, including Alphabot, as "best in breed" in a recent 44-page research report comparing the fulfillment methods of major online grocers.
The analysts praised the company for pursuing small grocery warehouses, which the industry calls micro fulfillment centers, instead of giant standalone fulfillment centers, like the kind that Kroger is building with Ocado.
The smaller warehouses are less expensive to build and take advantage of Walmart's existing real estate to keep fulfillment as close to customers as possible, analysts said. This helps maximize convenience for shoppers and minimize last-mile delivery costs for Walmart.
"Walmart's heightened focus on testing innovative technology, expansive store footprint, and leading market share have enabled it to become the clear front runner among the traditional retailers when it comes to omnichannel grocery offerings," the analysts wrote.