Walmart shoppers find time is well spent in new incubator store

Discussion
Photo: Walmart
Jan 28, 2022

Walmart wants to keep its customers a bit longer.

The retailer announced updates to its incubator store in Springdale, AR, that are focused on engaging customers throughout the shopping journey. The innovations may not make for faster shopping trips, as was once the objective, but could lead to better overall experiences and larger average purchases in the process.

Alvis Washington, vice president, marketing – store design, innovation and experience at Walmart U.S., said the store has evolved from its update last year that was focused on helping customers navigate more quickly throughout the shopping trip. The learnings from that test have been rolled out to around 1,000 of the chain’s stores as a result.

The Springdale location has been updated with a focus on customer interactions and leaving customers with the feeling that their trips to Walmart were “time well spent.”

The store makes use of big displays, à la Target, that lead shoppers into categories and feature the retailer’s exclusive partnerships such as GapHome. The retailer is also looking to add more space within its key merchandise areas to make shoppers feel more relaxed while in the store.

“Walmart is a grocery store that sells apparel along with other things, but that doesn’t mean we have to sell apparel the same ways we sell groceries,” Mr. Washington told Fast Company. “Customers want to be inspired … in new furniture, makeup and trends. We want to disrupt their expectations.”

Walmart shoppers find time is well spent in new incubator store
Photo: Walmart

Walmart is also looking to stimulate interactions with shoppers using QR codes throughout the store and passive smart screens.

The QR codes are intended to help pull together the digital and physical shopping experience. In one instance, a code might alert customers to special deals on products of interest. Codes could also be used to educate customers on all that Walmart has to offer. Mr. Washington wrote on the company blog that shoppers in the store’s pet department could scan a code “to find additional dog bed options, learn about Walmart’s pet insurance service options or have a 20-pound bag of kibble delivered to their door.”

Smart screens are used for a variety of purposes. For example, a passively interactive widescreen above a new men’s grooming section will automatically display reviews of a product when a shopper takes it off the shelf.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Which element(s) of Walmart’s  redesigned incubator store will have the biggest effect on the customer experience and rings at the register? Do you see other design opportunities that Walmart could use to differentiate its shopping experience from Target and other rivals?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"I encourage anyone who can make it there to check out this store. It is teeming with new merchandising, digital, and navigational concepts."
"If there is one retailer that can benefit from an elevated experience, it’s Walmart."
"Seems like forever I’ve been critical of retail’s goal of getting the customer out of the store as fast as possible. Walmart must read RW!"

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21 Comments on "Walmart shoppers find time is well spent in new incubator store"


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Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

I like the interaction technology that they are testing in this store. Displays are cleaner and more informative. I am hoping this will eventually stop the cramming of product in every nook and cranny in the store — it creates a dark store and makes it difficult to shop.

Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

The initiatives all sound interesting, but I’d say the QR code deployment will probably be one that is rolled out. While I understand the intention to slow the shopping journey down, this alone won’t do much. I don’t think Walmart should try to be like Target, but rather find the best version of Walmart.

Gary Sankary
BrainTrust

You make an excellent point Mark. Walmart and Target used to spend a ton of time trying win marketshare in their rivals core customer base. Walmart would upgrade their apparel and home areas to try to win more Target shoppers. Target would add “dollar store” displays, lower prices and try to grow market share in Walmart’s base. And, neither were able to move to the rock much. Walmart wins when they do the things they’re great at. Same goes for Target.

Melissa Minkow
BrainTrust

QR codes facilitating more in-store research is extremely helpful in our world today where sales associates are spread thin on the store floor. Allowing consumers to do the extensive research they would be doing online means they’ll feel more fulfilled by their in-person trip. I also like the idea of these types of stores being exclusive experimental destinations for shoppers. The model of having typical stores be designed with convenience in mind plus having alternative stores for an experiential visit gives the consumer options depending on their shopping goals for the day.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

No brand shops … please! That’s called “department store” and it is a formula for disaster at this point. I like the idea of raised displays, but that’s not going to be helpful for everyone. I think Smart Screens bring the best of the online experience into the physical store.

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

Yes. 1000% agree.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

I’m going to vote for brand shops … big time. I think Target and Best Buy would argue that they work great. Even if a brand shop is a table of Samsung products next to a table of Apple products. Or a Disney shop. Or a Gap Home shop. Brands are a destination. They provide focus and clarity. They are what customers shop for. They are a reason to shop at a retailer … or not. “Department store” doesn’t have to be a pejorative, just like “politician” doesn’t have to be a disparaging term. OK, give me a minute and I’ll come up with a different comparison.

Carol Spieckerman
BrainTrust

I encourage anyone who can make it there to check out this store. It is teeming with new merchandising, digital, and navigational concepts. As with most things Walmart, it’s the combination of factors that will make a difference at the register. Attempting to isolate a killer concept misses the point. A while back, Doug McMillon spoke of the digital rethinking of physical retail — Walmart’s Springdale store marks a major move in fulfilling that promise.

David Spear
BrainTrust

Creatively engaging shoppers has always been retail’s primary objective, which we all know can translate into a wide array of benefits such as bigger baskets, improved engagement, longer dwell times, repeat purchases, positive social commentary, etc. QR codes have tremendous potential to extend a physical visit into a virtual world flush with value and knowledge. Plus, if retailers leverage data and analytics the right way, they can take advantage of these QR stats to their benefit. Smart screens can also be engaging if used correctly, and large, well constructed, eye popping category entry ways can grab a shopper’s attention. Yet, none of these will drive register rings if relevant products, assortment and pricing is misaligned with consumer’s needs and desires.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

“…Disrupt their expectations…” very well stated. Every retailer should think that way when focusing on the consumer’s journey into the store. I think this this metamorphous strategy is going to come with a lot of consumer surprises down the road. More less aggressive retailers would do well with exploring this disruptive strategy.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

There’s Product and there’s Process. And it sounds like Walmart is doing all the right things in Process. “Customers want to be inspired.” Yep. “We want to disrupt their expectations.” Perfect. And all the evolutionary changes and enhancements they are executing make perfect sense. The digitizing of retail is upon us. But customers walk out of the store with Product … and yes, a sense of time well spent. I look forward to hearing more about Product as Walmart’s retail evolution unfolds.

Lisa Goller
BrainTrust

Bold merchandising and in-store tech will enhance Walmart’s shopping experience.

Accentuating its unique assortment with bold displays helps Walmart make an immediate emotional connection. Showcasing exclusive lines can inspire loyalty.

Engaging shoppers with QR codes for detailed product data, recommendations and promotions is wise. Walmart knows we’re in its aisles yet on our phones checking Amazon for reviews and deals. Using QR codes helps Walmart proactively deliver the data we seek.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

I must smile at Mr. Washington’s comment. “Walmart is a grocery store that sells apparel along with other things, but that doesn’t mean we have to sell apparel the same ways we sell groceries,” I remember when Walmart didn’t sell groceries.

I have a problem when the objective is to slow the shopping experience. But, maybe it will bifurcate the shoppers. Those who want it to be fast and convenient will continue to go online. Those that looking for in-store experience will sign up. But, I vote for speed and convenience.

Ian Percy
BrainTrust

Seems like forever I’ve been critical of retail’s goal of getting the customer out of the store as fast as possible. Walmart must read RW!

The intent of making the store interesting can’t help but be a winning strategy. And, yes, it may take a while to figure out how to do that effectively, but it is a worthy endeavor. “Simple Fascination” is the secret. Making it too complicated and technical will be the idea killer.

FWIW … I feel the same way about the idea that everything has to be on one page or executives won’t read it. The sad assumption is our brains can’t handle anything more than that. The “one-page-strategy” only works if the writing is boring. We are innately creative beings which formal education has pretty well destroyed. Make things interesting and we awaken the customers we need!

Jeff Hall
BrainTrust

It would seem the approach of giving the merchandise areas a bit more breathing room, along with thoughtfully placed smart screens and QR codes will be a winning formula for expanding shopper expectations in a welcoming, relaxed manner, translating into an unexpected, positive customer experience.

David Slavick
BrainTrust

When walking a Walmart store, do you see their core shoppers balancing their mobile phone while progressing through their experience? Do what you do best — depth of merchandise by category, great price/value relationship, convenience. This is a clear attempt to modernize the shopping experience and certainly interaction through digital displays and push content in real time is a smart move, but their demographic is not a solid match for this elevated experience. Am certain the manufacturer is paying for it!

James Tenser
BrainTrust

I first must confess to a serious case of FOMO, as I doubt I’ll have an opportunity to experience this Walmart incubator store first-hand anytime soon. The published descriptions and images reveal much promise, however.

The concept rings true on several counts: More liberal use of video screens. Lighted endcaps. Lower displays in some departments combined with interactive features, like motion-activated smart screens (which no doubt capture data on interactions). Use of QR codes to aid digital interactivity (which also capture shopper data).

Overall, I like how this store concept gives shoppers more “breathing room” compared with the tight and tall gondolas I’ve observed that make me want to escape their stores as rapidly as possible.

I’m not generally a fan of retail tactics aimed at extending the time spent on each shopping visit, but this is not that, IMO. Instead, Walmart seems to trying to NOT drive shoppers out of the building, by providing a more agreeable experience.

Brian Kelly
Guest
3 months 27 days ago

Walmart has ~10,500 stores globally and 4,743 in the US. Lab stores (incubator, pilot or whatever they are called) are great. Not sure if Springdale, fourth largest city in AR with a pop of 80K, is on my shopping list, but I’d love to see what WMT is thinking. Just as long as my store maintains its housekeeping standards, is in stock and folks on the floor recognize me as a valued customer.

Rachelle King
BrainTrust

If there is one retailer that can benefit from an elevated experience, it’s Walmart. Not surprising to see they are in test/learn to understand what that means for them and their customers.

The elevated displays and smart screens have good potential to move customers along the shopper journey to purchase. It will be interesting to see how these two elements advance in the next iteration. Inspiring visuals and point-of-purchase product reviews could have a significant impact on the Walmart shopping experience.

Dave Wendland
BrainTrust

The bar has been raised yet again. I envision this initial prototype as a small step on a very exciting and extended journey that will serve to delight shoppers and improve their ability to navigate and shop. As consumers become fully immersed in this level of activity at and around shelf, they may never return to traditional aisles.

Trevor Sumner
BrainTrust

This is a major shift in focus from convenience and value to “time well spent.” Walmart is eyeing updates from Target (Apple, Ulta), Kohl’s and Bed, Bath & Beyond and realizing that they need to upgrade the shopping experience in key markets. It’s also interesting to see their incorporation of screens, including interactive lift-and-learn, which is a reversal from earlier retreats that were less contextual and more promotionally driven. I think this is a huge step forward.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"I encourage anyone who can make it there to check out this store. It is teeming with new merchandising, digital, and navigational concepts."
"If there is one retailer that can benefit from an elevated experience, it’s Walmart."
"Seems like forever I’ve been critical of retail’s goal of getting the customer out of the store as fast as possible. Walmart must read RW!"

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