How Walmart’s VR training could revolutionise retail

Walmart, the world’s largest retailer and parent company of Asda, has announced that it is to bring in virtual reality to help train employees on topics like management and customer service.

The company will deploy VR instruction at all 200 of its ‘Walmart Academy’ training centres in the US before the end of 2017. These will help educate the 150,000 employees that go through the programme each year. Each centre will be equipped with an Oculus Rift VR headset and gaming PC to showcase a collection of VR training content.

All of the training programs will be based around 360-degree video and will include interactive on-screen cues asking the user to make decisions. These sorts of situations range from difficult management situations to dealing with the rush of Black Friday and will last between 30 seconds and five minutes to supplement traditional instructions.

The software is being developed by Paolo Alto-based immersive performance training startup STRIVR Labs. Prior to this high-profile deal, the company was focused on developing VR for athetics training programmes.

While this news is very much US-centric at this point, it would not be surprising to see the tech move across to Walmart’s subsidiary firms, such as Asda.

VR applications made for the purpose of training or educating employees is hardly a new phenomenon. Companies like Learning Light have been working on similar VR training programmes for years, but this is the first occasion that we have seen a major retail force invest so heavily in it.

While Walmart’s scheme focuses on training employees of dealing with human situations, there’s nothing to say that an app couldn’t be created to train staff on the intricacies of products. For example, a smarthome vendor could train employees at a store on how to work its products via VR. Rather than having to send a company representative around to different stores, the vendor could just create an experience for an app to demo the product.

We will have to wait to see how employees respond to Walmart’s training works and how successful it is in improving the way they interact with customers, but it is clear to see that this won’t be the last time that a major retailer looks to VR in improving staff education.

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