Walmart Redesigns Stores to Focus on Digital Experience

The company is hoping to create for a seamless omnichannel shopping experience guided by mobile devices.

Thanks for subscribing!

Need to Know

  • The new store design is meant to create a seamless shopping experience between Walmart’s physical stores and its digital properties.
  • The designs feature self-checkout kiosks, contactless payment options, mobile cake design, and signs that match the categories and icons from Walmart’s mobile app.
  • New signage, categorization, and checkout options create “navigational efficiencies” that usher customers through stores as quickly as possible.
  • Walmart’s new stores will also have expanded outdoor pickup options.

Analysis

Walmart is bringing its commitment to digital to its physical stores, today unveiling a new design that is meant to streamline online and in-store shopping into one seamless, omnichannel experience.

On September 30, the U.S. retail giant revealed a new in-store design concept that features icons and signs that match the categories from Walmart’s mobile app, as well as enhanced self-checkout kiosks and contactless payment options. Throughout the new stores will be posters instructing shoppers on how to use Walmart’s app to find exactly where an item is in-store, and signs with oversized labeling; two features, among others, that Walmart is calling “navigational efficiencies” designed to help customers spend as little time in-store as possible.

Signs at the front of new “digital-first” Walmart locations.

“We’re trying to save our customers time, which we know is important to them, and [use] less cognitive load, which we know is important to them,” Janey Whiteside, EVP and chief customer officer at Walmart, said of the new store design. “People walk around the store with a phone in their hand looking down and looking up, and we wanted to integrate those things, so when they look at their phone they can look up at [the same thing] in the store.”

The implementation of contactless shopping and navigational efficiency—plus the addition of large, outdoor pickup locations, which the new stores will also feature—may seem tailor-fit to the COVID-19 shopping era when spending as little time as possible in enclosed spaces while touching as few surfaces as possible, are priorities for customers. But Walmart has been working on unifying its online and in-store shopping experience since last year. And there have been several adjustments to Walmart’s commerce experience even this year before the pandemic led to widespread lockdown measures. In January, for instance, Walmart unveiled a new “Neighbourhood Market” that eliminated cashiers in favor of a cashless, self-serve experience.

In Canada, Walmart announced a $3.5-billion commitment to constructing “stores of the future” in July of last year. At the time, that initiative was said to include modernizing “smarter” stores, accelerating omnichannel experience, improving the in-store pickup experience, and investing in technology to ramp up distribution center capabilities. 

During COVID-19, Walmart has doubled down on its commitment to aligning digital infrastructure with its in-store experience, expanding its voice assistant to more than 5,000 stores in July and launching its membership program, Walmart+, in September. E-commerce has proven as popular for Walmart as it has for many big-box retailers throughout the pandemic: the company posted an online sales spike of 97% for its second quarter in August.

Walmart’s new digital-first store design will come to 200 stores in the U.S. by the end of this year, and 800 more by the end of 2021.

Thanks for subscribing!

Thanks for subscribing!