Walmart recently unveiled a new store design, which will land at 200 stores around the U.S. by the end of 2020, and 800 more by the end of 2021, according to Fast Company. What’s interesting is that Walmart began its store redesign long before Covid-19 was a part of our lives, but it seems to meet their customers exactly where they are right now, in a very relevant way. Here are 6 things that Walmart’s new store design teaches us about the way consumers are adjusting their retail shopping habits in a Covid world.
Browsing in-store is over (for now)
As the struggle with Covid-19 continues, Walmart’s store redesign aligns with the way that people are shopping during the pandemic. The big box store reorganized the layout of items across their stores so that consumers can easily grab what they need and exit quickly. Instead of scattering some things, separating categories, and making room for spontaneous stops, they consolidated categories into clear, dedicated sections. Most consumers aren’t lingering and wandering through the aisles right now, as they are trying to be safe and quick.
It’s about speed and clarity
This new organizational tactic allows consumers to get in and out as quickly as possible in order to save time, which was important to consumers even before Covid-19 was a part of our lives. You might think that your favorite store is well-organized already, but you may be surprised at how those spontaneous endcaps and strategically separated aisles made you walk through the store to get to what you really came in to purchase. This desire to spend little time in-store has only increased during the pandemic as people want to social distance.
Navigational efficiency is key
While the typical Walmart finishes remain the same, such as the industrial, unfinished ceilings, they have increased and enhanced the labeling and signage to improve a consumer’s efficiency in-store. They’ve also added a large blue arch outside which marks the pickup area, making it clearly visible from across the parking lot. In addition, the Walmart app helps direct customers to the exact item they need, with better-labeled aisles mimicking a theme park or airport design.
Digital and physical connection is everything
Consumers love the apps of their favorite brands and Walmart wants to ensure that the physical and digital experiences are connected and seamless. For example, the in-store signs and icons will exactly match what a consumer sees in the app. It’s not an either/or choice; the goal is that the app and in-store experience work collaboratively to provide an enhanced shopping experience for consumers. Walmart is really showing its dedication to the physical and digital connection by the change in the outside signage, as well. Instead of the wide Walmart wordmark, there is now a blue square that mimics its app icon.
Their changes are inclusive in nature
Their enhanced signage and oversized labels help to ensure convenience, and for individuals who have difficulty reading “cheese” or “seafood” because they speak and read a different language, the same icons that are on the in-store signs are also in the multilingual app, aiding in translation and better understanding during the in-store experience.
So where does experience stand?
It sounds like the experience that we’re always encouraging is becoming less important amid the pandemic. It seems like we’re steering away from overly experiential approaches like Apple and Target are known for, but we’re really just going with the ebb and flow — adapting to consumers’ needs as they evolve. While some habits will be changed permanently, others will resurface when consumers feel the time is right.
According to Fast Company, Target spent $7 billion redesigning their stores to be more browsable just two years ago. One year following their redesign, foot traffic had increased to its highest numbers in a decade. Fast forward to 2020 and Target’s curbside pickup expanded by a whopping 734% (no, that’s not a typo).
Walmart is taking a bold stand with its new store design and aligning with current consumer needs. The big box store understands that long after the pandemic, shoppers will still appreciate convenience, efficiency, inclusivity, and app integration. The role of brands right now is to be empathetic, move with the ebb and flow of the times, and meet consumers right where they are. What we learn from Walmart is that putting the consumer first will always be the right decision.