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Walmart Wants to Be More Like Target (And to Stop Wasting Your Time)

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Walmart (WMT) – Get Walmart Inc. Report operates nearly 5,000 stores across all 50 U.S. States. The chain has focused on being accessible and that has worked as over 90% of Americans live within 10 miles of one of its stores.

Accessible, however, does not mean enjoyable. Walmart wants people to be able to get to its stores to buy what they need, but it has never really focused on making the experience a pleasant one.

Now, with competition increasing and the bar for people to actually go into a store instead of ordering for delivery or curbside pickup getting higher, the retail giant has decided to try something new. 

“Today, we’re unveiling a new, signature experience in our incubator location, Store 4108 in Springdale, Arkansas, that we call ‘Time Well Spent.’ It focuses on making Walmart a destination where customers want to spend their time,” wrote Walmart Store Design, Innovation, and Experience Vice President Alvis Washington on the company’s blog.

The incubator store serves as a location for the company to try out new ideas and concepts that it later introduces into its stores.

“In today’s omnichannel world, customers still want to experience – touch, feel and try – items,” wrote Washington. “So, we’re now aiming to make customers feel wowed and proud when they shop with us. We’re using powerful design elements to show off amazing products that wow our customers, and when they see the value, they are proud of their choice and purchase”.


Image source: Walmart.

Walmart Wants Customers to Want to Visit

Walmart competes with Target (TGT) – Get Target Corporation Report, a retailer which has focused on making its stores destinations for its customers. That has involved evolving its stores to include store-within-a-store locations from Starbucks (SBUX) – Get Starbucks Corporation Report, Ulta Beauty (ULTA) – Get Ulta Beauty Inc Report, and Walt Disney (DIS) – Get Walt Disney Company Report. It has also included a revamp of its locations to make them specific to the markets they operate in and has added new company owned and operated brands across to make its merchandise more appealing.  

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That’s not a strategy Walmart has employed. That has changed, however, since the retailer began revamping its stores last year. Washington explained what the company has done and its next steps in his post.

Last year, we announced the first phase of our store redesign that was focused on navigation and wayfinding. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and we now have close to 1,000 stores renovated with this new design to help customers save time in finding what they need.

In this next phase of our redesign, we’re amplifying the physical, human and digital design elements in our stores to inspire customers and elevate the experience. Physical elements include lighting, space enhancements, dynamic displays and more. Our visual merchandising experts have highlighted exciting brands and created engaging experiences that bring to life the human element. Finally, QR codes and digital screens create opportunities for digital exploration.

These aren’t novel ideas, but they’re a shift in focus for Walmart. Washington also noted that the company has to make these changes in a way that fits the brand.

“But making the store more engaging isn’t enough. We have to do all of this in a way that is unique to Walmart,” he wrote.

Walmart Has to Catch Up to Target

Customers visit Target because they want to browse in the way that people might walk around a mall. That means that people sometimes visit the chain when they don’t need something and that leads to added sales — whether they decide to buy a coffee at Starbucks or end up purchasing something else they didn’t know they needed.

To catch up and make its stores more appealing Walmart has committed to a few new ideas:

Activated corners: Exciting displays at the corners of certain departments pull customers in and help them touch, feel and become a part of the space, allowing them to discover all that we have to offer
Elevated brand shops: Taking a “store within a store experience” to the next level. Apparel will highlight owned and national brands.
More space to discover: In these new reimagined spaces, we have purposefully created more space for our customers to explore and discover the breadth and depth of what our stores have to offer, and we’ve optimized assortment to elevate storytelling that draws customers in.
Digital touchpoints:Using our stores as an initial display of the great variety of products and brands, we can communicate to customers the vast range of products and services Walmart offers online through the strategic use of QR codes and digital screens.

Washington said that early results have been encouraging but noted that more work remains.

“We’ll continue to test, learn, and make changes based on what our customers tell us,” he wrote. “As we do that, we’ll quickly adjust and deliver an even better, more engaging experience in 2022 and beyond. After all, when customers choose to shop in-store with us, we want them to feel wowed and inspired – and that their time was well spent.”

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