Walmart’s new redesign looks a lot like Target
Two years ago, as the pandemic was in full swing, Walmart unveiled its store of the future. At a time when no one wanted to be with anyone else for a very long time, the company unveiled clearer signs in the store, to help you find your way around faster, and better pick-up areas inside. outside the store, so you can stay in your car. As we said then, “Walmart’s new store design proves that navigation is dead.”
Two years later, COVID-19 is still rampant. But now, Walmart is unveiling the second phase of its store redesign, a new approach to shopping. And their theme? Not speed, but “time well spent”.
“I say we want our store to play a part in a productivity journey, so customers and members save time finding the products they need, so they can spend time on the experiences they they want,” says Alvis Washington, vice president of marketing, store design, and innovation and experience at Walmart. “The last phase was about buying time; this next phase is about spending time.
This next-gen design is still being prototyped and on the shop floor in a test store that Walmart has set up in Springdale, Arkansas, where the company is incubating its latest ideas with real customers. Although not fully finalized, Walmart is committed to this evolving strategy behind its store design and has shared the designs exclusively with fast company.
So what does the next Walmart look like? Large corner screens. QR codes everywhere. And smart displays that know what you’re thinking of buying. It’s a mix of experiential shopping (a trait that Walmart’s warehouse-style stores have been lacking) and rapid mobile app integration (where Walmart has already excelled for a few years now). The idea is that you can touch and feel the products, but if you want to see a sofa in another color, or even have it delivered to your home instead of buying it in store, there’s always the app.
Large displays and brand shops
As Washington describes it, Walmart is “one big rectangle.” A main loop, nicknamed “action lane”, takes you through the store.
Similar to Target’s revamp from 2017, Walmart is putting in big screens with specialized lighting to nudge you out of that clear path. You might see a bedroom display by its notable and recent brand partnerships, like GapHome or Queer Eye. You can also see a space dedicated to strollers or vacuum cleaners.
“Walmart is a grocery store that sells clothes as well as other things, but that doesn’t mean we should sell clothes the same way we sell groceries,” Washington says. “Customers want to be inspired…by new furniture, makeup and trends. We want to disrupt their expectations.
Washington’s mention of groceries is no coincidence. A large majority of Walmart stores carry groceries these days. And Walmart has operated in the past three quarters with revenue slightly above expectations thanks to same-store sales up nearly 10% in the third quarter of 2021. The company attributes this windfall in large part to its retail chain. established supply, which has attracted budget-conscious people. grocery shoppers weathering the worst inflation in 30 years.
Installing richer, product-filled decor has been a strategy used in department stores for decades, but Walmart says it could start employing visual merchandisers in its stores for the first time – specialists who regularly update these fashion furniture and displays to attract consumers.
Walmart’s strategy so far has been to inundate the consumer with as many products as possible, crammed into narrow aisles to maximize selection.
“Instead of ‘pile it high, watch it fly,’ we want to show an alternative,” Washington says. To be clear, Walmart will always stack certain items high! One example is denim, where Washington says customers want to see all sizes and styles of jeans available. But for the most part, Walmart stores will have far more organized areas filled with unpackaged items for customers to touch and smell, especially in the revamped kitchen area, where KitchenAid mixers and Instant Pots will sit on shelves. so that you can “experience the same”. way you can a laptop or a phone,” according to Washington.
QR codes are king
However, Walmart does not stop at these new touch installations. They are also installing interactive displays throughout the store and displaying QR codes strategically on more products and in more areas.
For Walmart, QR codes are more than just an integration with its surprisingly beautiful app. Sometimes you will be able to scan one to get more information about a specific product, perhaps the dimensions of a piece of furniture or other color options. Other times, scanning a code will bring up the entire collection that an item is part of, for example, a pair of pants that could be matched with a shirt. And other times, scanning a QR code can be an easy way to order something for delivery that you don’t want to lug home, like a big bag of pet food. Additionally, Walmart images QR codes used for tasks such as marriage records.
“Since this pandemic, customers have become accustomed to the QR codes that they have used in each restaurant,” says Washington. “But you can’t just put QR codes in the store. . . we wanted to make sure that we solved the friction that a customer might have in the store, and that can vary from department to department.
QR codes are key in Walmart’s strategy to connect what it physically stocks in the store with what you can buy more easily online. To make this work, Walmart will constantly assess what needs to be stocked in each department and what they can ship to you in a day or two instead.
“If I’m shopping for a salon, I don’t expect the items to be there, I expect them to be shipped to me,” Washington says. “But if I’m looking for a cushion, I want it there [to buy and take home].”
Screens aren’t new to stores; they’ve been everywhere for decades. But despite the fact that most of us walk around the store with smartphones in our pockets, Walmart’s new design includes plenty of updated large screens to offer contextual information.
A new men’s grooming section — which was also an initiative launched by Target a few years ago — features a super-wide screen above the aisle. The surprise is that this screen is passively interactive. In other words, when you take a razor from the shelf, the screen automatically displays customer reviews for that specific razor.
On the one hand, maybe you just want to check out a shaver without the screen showing what you’re looking at. On the other, Walmart is trying to find the middle ground in how and when to give a customer the extra details they need to make a purchase decision. (So far, Walmart says 87% of shoppers in its test store find the many updates appealing, and about half say they’ll buy more from the store as a result.)
“We play and optimize [the experience]“Washington explains. “How do they know this vacuum is good for pet hair?” We have to serve that to the people. . . What part of the journey do we need to help them? »
Same old fit and finish
With so much investment in new experiential displays and smarter digital experiences, you might expect Walmart to push its investment in stores further. The ceilings are in exposed metal beams. The floor is polished concrete. And, how can I say this politely? Neither is done in a cool, industrial way. Will this be the time when Walmart updates the lackluster fit and finish of its stores?
In a word, no. Washington says all the finishing work Walmart wanted to do — which focused exclusively on signage — happened during the final stage of the redesign. Walmart isn’t going to install drop ceilings and make other concessions to appear whiter and brighter, like a target.
“Some things are heritage. We rely on the whole warehouse vibe,” says Washington, who notes that warehouse vibe is more than a cost saver in building stores; it broadcasts the “value” you get from shopping at Walmart. “It’s who we are. We don’t want to try to be high end, that’s not what we’re trying to do. . . [we want] to deliver an elevated Walmart-style experience.
The company plans to start rolling out the redesign in 2022. However, it only updates between 800 and 1,000 (or about 20% of its stores) each year. In other words, it might still be a while before you see this store design live at your local Walmart.