Walmart this week revealed a striking new store design it says emphasizes the retailer’s digitally enabled experience and is friendlier to connected consumers. The new look, which has been tested in selected locations and is subject to additional customer and associate feedback revisions, is expected to come to at least 200 Supercenters by the end of its fiscal year in early February as well as select Health Centers and Neighborhood Markets, the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer said.
“Developed through a customer-centric lens, the design creates an elevated experience that appeals to shoppers through a sleek design aesthetic, a layout that spotlights products, along with an end-to-end digital navigation that guides customers throughout their journey,” Janey Whiteside, EVP and chief customer officer, said in a blog post.
Updated signage on the exterior and interior of stores reflects the Walmart app icon, “creating an instant omni-shopping experience in the customer’s mind,” Whiteside said. “As customers enter the store, they are greeted with clean, colorful iconography and a store directory that encourages them to download and use the Walmart app while they shop.”
What follows are more photographs of the new design, one not likely be confused for an old-school discount warehouse.
Bold and Dimensional
Throughout the store, bold, dimensional typeface directs customers to the exact section they are looking for, while aisles don letter and number combinations to guide customers from phone to product.
“By creating a system that acknowledges our app navigation from beginning to end, we create an optimized omni experience for both customers and associates,” Whiteside said.
Inspired by Airports
Whiteside said the design was “inspired by airport wayfinding systems as best-in-class examples of how to navigate large groups of people. We developed simple yet thoughtful designs to replicate these navigation efficiencies, which will help us move customers through the store more quickly.”
The new design also optimizes product layout, bringing greater visibility to key items throughout the store, including dedicated in-store sections for electronics, toys, baby products and more.
A view into a produce department. The design appears to incorporate elements of Walmart’s “Produce 2.0” initiative that was expected to have been rolled out to half the retailer’s Supercenters by this summer. It is unclear at the moment what the status of that initiative is. Its architect, former Chief Merchandising Officer Steve Bratspies, departed the company not long after Produce 2.0 was announced, and the subsequent pandemic would likely have interfered with major renovation projects. A spokesperson was not immediately available to address questions.
This photograph indicates that some elements of Produce 2.0—meant to highlight improvements Walmart had made in sourcing and quality in the department and make it easier to shop—have arrived in the form of consolidated organic produce, lower-profile displays and wider aisles. Other elements contemplated by the change, including “large and bright” pricing signs, are considerably less evident.
Leveling the Playing Field
The new look drew plenty of attention from the larger industry. “Walmart continues to level the playing field against its top competitor, Amazon. The new store look and digital features build on Walmart’s long-term omnichannel strategy and serve as a logical follow-up to their recent Walmart+ membership announcement,” said Meyar Sheik, president and chief commerce officer of the cloud commerce platform Kibo, in one of several offered commentaries received within hours of the release.
“Walmart’s new store design and mobile app is intended to help customers quickly complete their shopping by being led to the exact location of items,” added Kevin Sterneckert of Symphony AI. “However, before retailers can better serve their customers, they must ensure their back-end processes are prepared. From a merchandising perspective, inventory must always be accurate, and store layouts and planograms have to be executed correctly for shoppers to realize the full benefits of an enhanced store design and mobile app. Periodic compliance reviews that take hours or days to complete will not be successful. Inaccurate inventory or misplaced merchandise will only lead to more shopper frustration and even lost sales.”
Toggling Between Channels
Stores will include self-checkout kiosks as well as contactless payment solutions, including Walmart Pay, to limit contact between associates and customers. Select locations will also have Scan & Go to help customers manage their checkout directly.
“We’re always listening to our customers and innovating our in-store, online and mobile experiences to meet and exceed their expectations,” Whiteside said. “We want their time with us to be enjoyable and we’re working hard to create ways for them easily toggle between shopping channels—or use them together.”