Walmart will test combining store/fulfillment center locations at four existing stores, using them as test beds for new technology, digital tools and physical enhancements. The stores will focus on implementing new tools that can help speed up both customer service and order fulfillment.
Each of the stores will include embedded product and technology teams that will prototype, test and iterate solutions in real time, to scale what works and scrap what doesn’t. Some of the initial technologies being tested include:
- Omni-assortment: One of the test stores will move most of its in-store apparel assortment online, to make these items available both to both brick-and-mortar and ecommerce customers — a change that could expand to other hard-to-manage categories as well;
- Inventory speed: Walmart will deploy an in-house app that shortens the time needed to get items from the backroom to the salesfloor. Associates will hold up a handheld device and use augmented reality (AR) to highlight which boxes are ready to go;
- First-time pick rate: The retailer is testing a combination of in-store signage and handheld devices to help associates navigate more quickly to the right locations when picking items for an online order. The solution already has increased the percentage of times associates find the item on their first attempt by as much as 20% in some of the categories; and
- Checkout experience: Stores testing this technology will continue to build upon a new checkout experience introduced earlier this year, as well as different hardware and software solutions focused on enhancing a contact-free checkout experience.
“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, in ways that only Walmart can,” said John Crecelius, SVP of Associate Product and Next Generation Stores at Walmart U.S. in a statement. “That’s where our new test stores come in. Their purpose is to find solutions that continue to help our stores operate as both physical shopping destinations and online fulfillment centers, in a way that has yet to be seen across the retail industry.”