Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, is embarking on a renovation of its stores.
The new store experience will be built around the retailer’s mobile app and inspired by the design of airport terminals to create a digitally enabled shopping environment, said Alvis Washington, the company’s vp of marketing, store design, innovation and experience. It’s part of a multiyear transformation at the value-oriented department store chain, further integrating its physical locations with digital to create a more navigable omnichannel destination.
“We’re excited to evolve and reimagine the customer experience in our stores for a mobile-first world,” said Washington.
Following the renovation of its first location on Springdale, Ark., in late summer, the company plans to initially complete renovations at 200 locations this fiscal year and 800 next year.
Though Walmart last refreshed its stores in 2015, this is the most comprehensive overhaul of the store environment in the company’s history, according to Washington.
The aim is to make the overall shopping experience more efficient, helping customers more quickly locate the items they need. In turn, Walmart, which teamed with creative design firm Fitch for the project, hopes the new format will provide shoppers with more time to discover new products, which is the part of the experience that excites them most.
“We framed this up as the world’s greatest design challenge for how to achieve simplicity at scale with the world’s largest retailer,” said Brandon Boston, creative director at Fitch.
The design consists of a store directory that greets shoppers when they enter, featuring a scannable barcode to download Walmart’s app. The idea is to navigate the customer through the “terminal” (the store) to the “gate” (department) they are looking for.
The app facilitates the shopping journey by offering navigation, price checks, alternative product options to those in the store and a touchless checkout experience. It is essentially a “remote control” for the store, Boston said.
Large signs in the brand’s signature blue, plus natural wood, black trim and clean lines, are married to the overall industrial feel of the interior, he said. Departments feature beacons that help aide in navigation and draw customers in, such as the one in the outdoor goods section that spotlights bikes.
The intent is to create a space that is both more efficient and relaxing for the shopper, while putting the product front and center, Boston said.
Walmart began the design process with Fitch about a year ago, leading with the idea that a mobile-first brick-and-mortar experience would be successful since customers are never without their mobile devices.
As locations are renovated, Walmart will be listening to customers and watching the data in order to make any necessary tweaks to the reimagined space just as it did during the initial planning. It’s all tied to Walmart’s “test and learn” mentality.
Recent events will likely contribute to the concept’s success. While the process began prior to Covid-19, the pandemic underscored the already recognized need for a more contactless shopping experience, so the discounter emphasized tools such as a product finder and touch-free checkout with payment solution Walmart Pay and self-checkout kiosks.
“The pandemic has accelerated the need for a seamless in-store experience and our brand-led design delivers this to the Walmart customer. Our messaging system supports the services inside the Walmart app by embracing the mobile-first world we are living in,” Boston added.