ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Black Friday shopping at Walmart will be smoother this year, if the retail giant’s new high-tech training method serves its purpose.
The company is using virtual reality to train associates on how to deal with the chaos of one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
“This is a real Black Friday event,” Walmart employee Sandi Hughes said, as she demonstrated the virtual reality technology to 10News.
The 360-degree footage seen through the virtual reality headset was recorded at the electronics counter during a previous Black Friday. The scene is what you’d imagine: Long lines, crowded aisles and flustered customers. A security guard watches over it all.
It’s enough to make even the calmest person’s heart rate rise.
Hughes, who trains associates in one of Walmart’s training academies in St. Petersburg, said before they started using this technology, there was no way to truly get the feeling of what Black Friday is actually like.
“What’s so wonderful about this is we can immerse them in this real-life situation and they don’t have to worry about making bad mistakes,” Hughes explained. “They get to make those mistakes here in this training, so they can be better prepared when they go out and experience it in real life.”
Hughes points out some red flags that might slip past the untrained eye: A little girl standing up in the seat of a shopping cart; a man who’s not getting a question answered; a manager who’s asking around for the key to unlock an electronics cabinet.
With each problem, Hughes pauses the exercise and explains what an associate should do in the same situation.
Thanks to the technology, it’s as close as employees can get to Black Friday, short of experiencing it in real life.
Walmart uses virtual reality to train employees in all kinds of scenarios, not just the holiday rush. Right now, it's in five Bay Area stores. Pretty soon, the company will have it in all of them.
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