Walmart reimagines its supercenters

Discussion
Photo: Walmart
Oct 01, 2020
George Anderson

Walmart has introduced a new store design to help millions of customers who shop at its supercenters every year reap the full advantages of the “omni-shopping experience.”

In a blog post, Janey Whiteside, the retailer’s chief customer officer, says the new layout “spotlights products” throughout the store and provides customers “end-to-end digital navigation” to guide them through their journeys. Stores will give consumers a number of contactless methods to shop and pay for their purchases. The retail giant plans to roll out 200 stores with the new design before the end of the current fiscal year and another 1,000 next year.

Signage on the exterior and interior of the store is designed to drive downloads and use of the chain’s app as part of the shopping experience. Bold signage and aisles marked clearly with number designations that match Walmart’s app are meant to make it easier for customers to find what they are looking for.

“We were inspired by airport wayfinding systems as best-in-class examples of how to direct large groups of people,” writes Ms. Whiteside. “We developed simple yet thoughtful designs to replicate these navigation efficiencies, which will help us move customers through the store more quickly. We also optimized product layout, bringing greater visibility to key items throughout the store, including dedicated in-store sections for electronics, toys, baby products and more.”

Walmart reimagines its supercenters
Photo: Walmart

Walmart has also made contactless shopping, which has grown more popular with consumers during the novel coronavirus pandemic, a key feature of its new design. All stores will have self-checkout kiosks and allow customers to use Walmart Pay on the chain’s app to complete their purchase. Select stores will have Walmart’s Scan & Go tech to checkout sans a cashier.

A Fast Company article headline says Walmart’s new store design “proves browsing is dead” in stores. The goal of consumers and the retailers that serve them is to help them “get in and get out. Don’t stick around.”

Ms. Whiteside, in an interview with the publication, gave some credence to this view. 

“We’ve always known customers want to get in and out of a Walmart as quickly as they can. Not in a bad way. You don’t want to waste time,” she said.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Does Walmart’s new store design align with how Americans are shopping today? Do you think shopper dwell time in stores is less important today than it has been in the past?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"It’s the right design for today’s world."
"...creating the behind-the-scenes system that knows the exact locations of every SKU in every store is a major strategic advance."
"Dwell time has been and will always be key to increased basket size. It’s just logical. And for what it’s worth, the new Walmart design is great."

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22 Comments on "Walmart reimagines its supercenters"


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Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

This is a huge vote of confidence in physical stores and it underlines the view among most retailers that the future is omnichannel rather than being solely about online. Target has already shown that improving store environments has a very positive impact on footfall, dwell time and conversions and Walmart will be hoping to do the same. Admittedly, Walmart has a lot more work to do in some areas of its assortment – such as apparel – but it is gradually improving those areas. These store enhancements go hand-in-hand with the investments being made in other areas of the business so, in my view, they add up to a credible and coherent strategy that will allow Walmart’s continued growth.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

It’s the right design for today’s world. The company may need to shift some, later, but good signage and a locator app are both things that should be standard operating procedure for any retailer.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

Looking for an obscure thing-a-jig at Home Depot? Their app tells you Aisle and Bin #. Signage takes you right there. And if you ask a human, chances are they pull out the app. Doesn’t get any easier.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

Walmart wouldn’t design a store that doesn’t align with how Americans are shopping today. I like how they are pursuing the redesign. They design it and implement in just a few “test stores.” If it works, they move forward. If not, they don’t. A Harvard Business Review article a number of years ago shared a Walmart story about a re-design that looked great – and that the customers loved. Problem was that it didn’t impact sales. So why spend millions on each store when it doesn’t have any ROI? Of course they need to stay current with what their customers want and expect. You get the point. It needs to work. Walmart is smart. Whatever they do, if it works, will be emulated by others. They are a role model and leader in the retail industry.

Art Suriano
Guest

Overall I think the new store design concept is a wise move on the part of Walmart. Consumers will respond enthusiastically; however as with all technology, there will be some issues. Walmart will still find customers needing human assistance to answer a question or to help them with a need. If they can incorporate meeting this need into their new store design and include store associates to assist customers, I am convinced they will have a big win. There is no doubt that today’s customers prefer to do more of their shopping in-store alone and enjoy finding what they want and deciding for themselves about the purchase. Walmart is already a self-serve store, but when you find yourself stuck and the technology provided is not giving you the solution, nothing replaces a well-trained and engaging store associate.

Dr. Stephen Needel
BrainTrust

Better/clearer signage is always a good idea. But before we go crazy praising Walmart, let’s think a moment about how hard it is to find stuff there – not hard at all.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

I love the way Walmart is learning and evolving! This move is partly intended to take some of the spotlight from Target as the “new” department store. And if the “old” mid-tier department store is going the way of the dinosaur, then Walmart and Target have a lot of market share to compete for.

Lisa Goller
BrainTrust

We no longer linger like it’s 2019. Walmart’s improved signage, speedy checkout options and mobile navigation all reduce dwell time. Since we now fill our baskets more per visit, the significance of dwell time has declined.

Rodger Buyvoets
BrainTrust

More consumers are becoming goal-oriented, with less and less time on their hands – I mean, how many times have you been to the mall to dwell around? Times have changed. I believe the steps that Walmart is taking will serve this “new” shopper (looking to buy with the minimum amount of time and maximum output) better. As for dwell times – sure, this still has a function for product discovery. However dwell time has become less relevant now that people have all the information at hand. But this is heavily dependent on the retail industry (e.g., apparel/fashion vs. others).

Ian Percy
BrainTrust
Like so many retailers – and even many senior living facilities themselves – Walmart seems rather oblivious to how seniors experience the store environment. Seems to me the older population is a key part of the Walmart customer demographic. According to Orfield Laboratories in Minnesota, by the time you reach 80ish you have considerably less of the perceptual and cognitive capabilities you had when you were 20. In fact it starts going down hill around 45. The retail design folks don’t seem to know this. It starts with the “senior hours” being between 7:00 am and 8:00 am! Are you nuts? Older folks (and I turn 75 today – gifts regretfully declined) don’t want to “reap the full advantages of the omni-shopping experience.” What the heck is an omni-shopping experience, I’m looking for the Depends! If that doesn’t scare them half to death, there is “end-to-end digital navigation” to guide them through their journeys. Add to that there is “a number of contactless methods to shop and pay for their purchases” so they can get… Read more »
Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

Come and be alone with us. I get it is a product of the times but I see reason to get into my car so I can experience the world through my phone. I could do that online. #theregoesdiscovery

Gary Sankary
BrainTrust

Walmart has been really amazing during the pandemic. They’ve been able to pivot their massive organization quickly to respond to customer concerns and health directives, this is another great example. I think this is spot on for how customers will want to shop, even after the pandemic subsides.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

“Dwell time” is the antithesis of what today’s shopper wants. Anything that helps the customer “get in and out” as quickly as possible will encourage loyalty.

Bravo to Walmart for recognizing this. I remember decades ago when stores were designed for exactly the opposite. “How can we keep them there?” “Dwell time” was the operative word. “the milk should be at the back of the store so if a customer is just coming in for a quart of milk, they must go through the entire store.” Today, that is enough to keep a customer away.

There will be more of this type of thinking from progressive retailers like Walmart. I believe in the next 10 years or less we will see a sudden and massive change in retailers. 2020 retail will be unrecognizable in 2030.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust
Ricardo Belmar
Retail Transformation Thought Leader
1 month 29 days ago

There’s no question that “dwell time” needs to be rethought. While many people will question why you should have a store if you’re not trying to get customers to stay long enough to buy, I think that’s oversimplifying the situation. The reality is that customers are supplementing their shopping experience pre-purchase before they arrive at a physical store. That means the purchase experience inside the store has to change to match. Walmart sees this and is adapting. I agree with you – stores in 2030 won’t look much like stores in 2020, but that’s not a bad thing! It’s retail evolution and it’s a necessary thing!

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

I thought the signage was clear already, but I like the rationale and thought put into the new format. It’s a lot cleaner and a lot easier to navigate. I hope this is a trend for the future.

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

Dwell time has been and will always be key to increased basket size. It’s just logical. And for what it’s worth, the new Walmart design is great. Simple, easy to navigate and definitely brand right. Nice work, now for the hard part: rollout.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust
Ricardo Belmar
Retail Transformation Thought Leader
1 month 29 days ago

Welcome to the “Target-ification” of the Walmart in-store shopping experience! This is a welcome change to a store layout that has for some time not been very conducive to a pleasant shopping experience, especially considering the shift that has occurred this year to “get in, get out” shopping by consumers due to the pandemic. Add to that the increased usage of the Walmart app by customers, and this makes complete sense. Customers are already using the Walmart app more and more to guide their shopping experience and adding in-store cues designed to augment that experience is a smart decision. Target has followed this path in many ways in recent years and this no doubt helped them cement their success during 2020. If executed properly, this will be something Walmart can readily adapt in a post-pandemic world, but by then shoppers will have trained themselves to shop in new ways that the store format will support. That will make Walmart an even tougher to beat retailer.

Joe Skorupa
BrainTrust

Brilliant use of technology as a shopping convenience enabler, especially in large format stores. Walmart continues its current string of smart, winning strategies that other retailers will follow as fast as they are able.

Laura Davis-Taylor
BrainTrust
So here’s my question for everyone in relation to the notion that “browsing is dead” in stores—the goal of consumers and the retailers that serve them is to help them “get in and get out. Don’t stick around.” Is this because we want this to be the case, or because we have to operate this way now? Remember that we’ve spent recent years espousing that CX and brick and mortar experience is *everything*, and we had strong data to support it. COVID-19 came out of nowhere and forced the pivot away from this, but does it change the fact that great retail store experiences with a reason to linger and enjoy are still what we yearn for? I’m going to say no. If we could all wear a bubble that ensures 100 percent safety and go in and have amazing store experiences, I think most of us would still be game. I love that Walmart is augmenting the store shop with better technology-enabled support, but I think it’s a little dramatic to say that from… Read more »
James Tenser
BrainTrust

The thing about “dwell time” is that there is still a proven correlation between more time spent in stores and larger baskets. There is no correlation between long checkout queues and larger baskets. When it comes to saving shoppers’ precious time, it’s good to encourage leisurely browsing but terrible to make them wait to pay and even worse to waste their time in fruitless searching for a desired item.

Wayfinding aids in the store (prominent signage and the mobile app) should help shoppers reduce unproductive search time for items they already know they want. If you can find it you can buy it.

Interacting with a mobile app in-store may tend to make the shopping experience more deliberate, especially with regard to checking product prices and attributes or the long-tail assortment. It may extend shopping time, but it’s the shopper’s choice.

Re-signing all 5,000 Walmart stores is a large capital investment, but creating the behind-the-scenes system that knows the exact locations of every SKU in every store is a major strategic advance.

Brent Biddulph
BrainTrust

By simplifying the customer journey using technology, the more insights (customer data) will be gathered, and thus, providing Walmart (perhaps for the first time) richer and legit personalized engagement opportunities as a result.

Would also like to see a major change in terms of space allocation in food / grocery to what still seems elusive to Walmart — high quality grab and go, meal solution “carve outs” versus carrying endless varieties of low margin, commodity canned foods, cereals, juices, sauces, etc., moving that variety to their endless aisle (digital) platform and optimizing the in-store food space as well.

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

Walmart’s store of the future strategies is now better aligned with the changing consumer behaviors, where we are seeing a hybrid way of shopping in both digital and physical channels. While there is work to do on the good, better, best assortment strategies at Walmart, especially in the fashion categories, the Walmart store capital investments will pay dividends for the consumer who dictates how, when, and where they tend to shop.

Reimagining the big box supercenters around better customer experience is the right move. Especially with the widening of the aisles, enhanced graphics, and lifestyle-driven assortment clustering, these are the types of moves physical retailers have to make to drive better customer journey’s. Digital is clearly the connection to drive consumers to the store, where perhaps they may linger a bit more than usual and impulse shop.

Walmart and other retailers have strategically leveraged their physical spaces for BOPIS, curbside pickup, same day fulfillment, and delivery.

This is the next steps and let’s see how this plays out for Walmart.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"It’s the right design for today’s world."
"...creating the behind-the-scenes system that knows the exact locations of every SKU in every store is a major strategic advance."
"Dwell time has been and will always be key to increased basket size. It’s just logical. And for what it’s worth, the new Walmart design is great."

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