Walmart explores “new era of retail” with omnichannel shopping concept
30 Oct 2020 --- Supermarket giant Walmart is rolling out new test stores that function as both physical shopping destinations and online fulfilment centers, in a move pegged as a “first-of-its-kind”.
The move - a radical shake-up for retail - comes amid lockdown measures and quarantine restrictions caused by the on-going COVID-19 pandemic which continues to redefine shopping habits and behaviors, prompting retailers to explore omnichannel avenues for consumers’ convenience.
To increase the speed of development, product and technology teams will be embedded in the select Walmart stores to prototype, test and iterate solutions in real time. In doing so, the company aims to facilitate a “true rapid prototype environment.”
“We’re moving quickly to use our physical retail stores to not only serve in-store shoppers, but to flex to meet the needs of online shoppers, too,” the company details.
“We’ve identified these four stores across the country [US] to serve as test centers where we will continuously rotate new technology, digital tools and physical enhancements in and out of the stores all with the intention of helping our shoppers better and more easily serve our customers.”
The company has set up two of these hybrid outlets, with two more to come.
“Some of what we test will be visible to customers and some of it will not. Regardless, it’s the customer who will benefit,” Walmart states.
The supermarket chain highlights a few examples of what it is testing:
Inventory speed – Walmart recently developed an app that speeds up the time it takes to get items from the backroom to the sales floor. Instead of scanning each box individually, workers can just hold up a handheld device and the app uses augmented reality to highlight the boxes that are ready to go. As a result, the product gets on the shelf faster.
First-time pick rate – The supermarket is currently testing how it can use a combination of in-store signage and handheld devices to help its workers navigate to the right locations when picking items for an online order. So far, this simple change has reduced the time it takes its workers to find the items and customers to fill their orders.
Checkout experience – These stores will continue to build upon a new experimental checkout experience that Walmart introduced earlier this year to help transform a transactional experience into a relational one. The company will continue to test different hardware and software solutions focused on enhancing, “and even re-imagining,” a contact-free checkout experience for customers.
The evolution of retail
In this new era of retail, e-commerce has been pushed into the center stage. Companies are now actively re-envisioning methods of scaling up their businesses in this context.
“Evolving our stores is just the beginning. In the coming weeks and months, we’ll share more about how we’re reimagining our other physical assets to better serve the needs of customers today and into the future,” Walmart states.
In this new era of retail, online commerce has been pushed into the center stage.
COVID-19’s influence over omnichannel consumption was recently highlighted in Innova Market Insights’ recently unveiled Top Ten Trends for 2020.
Indeed, industry players have been actively scaling up their in-house activities. Impossible Foods, for instance, launched an e-commerce site for its US consumers to purchase family-size quantities of the plant-based Impossible Burger.
In March, a new virtual “in store” concept by LifeStyles in 360 debuted, allowing consumers to shop from their homes thanks to virtual reality technology, paired with a white-glove delivery service.
Edited by Benjamin Ferrer
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