Sleek is among the hottest trends in retail design, and Walmart’s digitally-inspired store redesign effort, unveiled Wednesday, shows how the trend is being embraced by even the largest merchants during this time of pandemic.
The new redesign features announced by Walmart seem more about customer experience and aesthetics than merchandising and other areas of retail, but various areas are touched upon. Like pretty much anything Walmart does, one of the main motivations behind the redesign is surely to gain some ground on Amazon.
What Walmart calls the “new look” will be rolled out to 200 supercenters this fiscal year, along with some 1,000 smaller Walmart stores after that.
Redesign Influences and Features
The changes are informed by e-commerce and the onmichannel ideal that so many commerce operators have been chasing even before the pandemic started and put e-commerce in higher gear.
Indeed, one can imagine how a trip to one of these redesigned Walmart stores could feel akin to visiting the retailer’s e-commerce site or mobile app, at least in a general sense. As well, the new store design features resemble, in ways, a recently constructed airport terminal, one whose style might be called sleek, colorful or even minimalist.
Simply put, the retailer said that its “new look and feel and experience” includes:
- Updated Walmart signage reflecting the Walmart app icon
- Bold, dimensional typeface spotlighting sections
- Clean, colorful signage encouraging app use
- Self-checkout kiosks as well as contactless payment solutions (i.e. Walmart Pay)
“Today is a pivotal moment for us as we roll out our new store look and feel and embrace a truly digitally enabled omni shopping experience,” said Alvis Washington, Walmart’s vice president, marketing – store design, innovation and experience. “We set out to create a more engaging experience that would allow both our associates and customers to better navigate their shopping needs in a highly customized and convenient way.”
New and Improved Store Features
More specifically, the store changes include the following features, according to Janey Whiteside, the Walmart U.S. EVP and chief customer officer:
- Omni-Shopping Spark and Optimized Entrance: The retailer has updated the Walmart signage on the exterior and interior of stores to reflect the Walmart app icon, creating an instant omni-shopping experience in the customer’s mind. As customers enter the store, they are greeted with clean, colorful iconography and a store directory that encourages them to download and use the Walmart app while they shop.
- Bold, dimensional typeface (e.g. SEAFOOD, BEEF and DAIRY) directs customers to the exact section they are looking for, while aisles don letter and number combinations to guide customers from phone to product.
- Airport Inspiration and Product Spotlight: The retailer, said Whiteside, was inspired by airport wayfinding systems as best-in-class examples of how to navigate large groups of people. “We developed simple yet thoughtful designs to replicate these navigation efficiencies, which will help us move customers through the store more quickly,” Whiteside said. “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.”
- Contactless Checkout & Payment: Stores will include self-checkout kiosks as well as contactless payment solutions, including Walmart Pay, to limit contact between associates and customers. Select locations will also have Scan & Go to help customers manage their checkout directly. “We’re always listening to our customers and innovating our in-store, online and mobile experiences to meet and exceed their expectations,” Whiteside said. “We want their time with us to be enjoyable and we’re working hard to create ways for them easily toggle between shopping channels – or use them together.”
White said Walmart has tested the new concept in select stores and is “excited by the initial feedback from customers and associates. We’ll be rolling it out to more stores this fall and will continue to get customer and associate feedback and evolve the design accordingly.”
The Amazon Factor
As happens, feedback on the new Walmart store design came quickly on Wednesday after news broke about the effort. And you can bet that the new Walmart store design will influence a host of other retailers eventually, especially as data about its successes or failures trickle in.
Some of that commentary focused on the payments aspect of the new store design.
“As part of its new store design, Walmart demonstrates that contactless checkout is a necessary tool for a safe, convenient option for shoppers to pay in the midst of the pandemic,” said Todd Barstow, VP of payment solution for retail technology company GK Software USA. “As the concept improves and usability increases, more and more retailers and stores will be adopting this technology to enable contactless transactions. Retailers that offer mobile or contactless checkout services are better able to handle changing market conditions and customer behavior.”
Other commentary put the store redesign into a context that included Amazon, Walmart’s main rival in most retail areas.
“Walmart continues to level the playing field against its top competitor, Amazon. The new store look and digital features build on Walmart’s long-term omnichannel strategy and serve as a logical follow-up to their recent Walmart+ membership announcement,” said Meyar Sheik, president and chief commerce officer for retail tech provider Kibo, referring to Walmart’s new Amazon Prime-like membership and loyalty program. “Walmart has been impressively responsive and nimble in its digital transformation, and in its response to the pandemic's challenges. The new store format, digital app and touch-less check-out features add a new level of convenience for Walmart shoppers. What's more, it further leverages Walmart's wide network of stores while seamlessly integrating the digital features and benefits shoppers want in their experiences today.”
Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart operates more than 11,300 stores under 58 banners in 27 countries, and e-commerce websites, employing 2.2 million-plus associates worldwide. Walmart U.S. is No. 1 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s list of the top food retailers in North America, while Walmart-owned Sam’s Club ranks No. 9 on the list.