The COVID-19 pandemic has forced one of the country’s largest retailers to reevaluate how it does business in a “new era of retail.”
Walmart announced that after being forced to adjust on the fly during the COVID-19 outbreak, it is testing out four new stores across the country that will serve as “both physical shopping destinations and online fulfillment centers.”
John Crecelius, Walmart’s Senior Vice President of Associate Product and Next Generation Stores, said that the four stores willl serve as “test centers” where they will rotate different prototype technology in and out of the store to determine what will be most convenient for in-person and online shoppers.
“To increase the speed at which we learn, product and technology teams will be embedded in the stores to prototype, test and iterate solutions in real-time, scaling what works and scrapping what doesn’t, creating a true rapid prototype environment,” Crecelius added.
In the first test store, Walmart is moving most of the in-store apparel assortment online, in an effort to identify other hard-to-manage categories that stores can work to make more readily available.
Crecelius said that Walmart has also 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, associates instead hold up a handheld device, and the app uses augmented reality to highlight the boxes that are ready to go out.
At the test stores, they’re also researching how to speed up the time for picking up online orders and reimagining the checkout experience to “transform a transactional experience into a relational one.”
The first two test centers have been set up in Arkansas. The other store’s locations will be determined later.
“In this new era of retail, assets that used to serve a single purpose will transform into flexible, scalable assets that can be used in multiple ways to serve customers how, when, and where they need,” Crecelius said.
“Evolving our stores is just the beginning,” he added. “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.”
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