Walmart testing improvements to its operations

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Walmart testing improvements to its operations

By Dan Berthiaume - 10/29/2020

Walmart will be testing new ways to operate and help its employees better serve online and in-store customers alike in four designated locations. 

The discount giant has identified four stores across the country where it will continuously rotate new technology, digital tools and physical enhancements. The stores will serve as testing grounds for solutions to help Walmart brick-and-mortar stores operate as both physical shopping destinations and online fulfillment centers and improve the overall shopping experience. 

“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,” John Crecelius, senior VP of associate product and next Generation stores, Walmart U.S., said in a post on the chain’s website. “Some of what we test will be visible to customers and some of it won’t. Regardless, it’s the customer who will benefit.”

Two of the test stores are located near its headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, with the other locations to be announced.

In its first test store, Walmart is moving most of the in-store apparel assortment online, meaning the same exact items will be found both in the store and online.

“By doing so, we’ll learn what it takes to make all eligible items in the store truly omni– available for customers online and in the store,” said Crecelius.

Another test involves the use of a Walmart-developed app that speeds up the time it takes to get items from the backroom to the sales floor. Instead of scanning each box individually, the employee holds up a handheld device, and the app uses augmented reality to highlight the boxes that are ready to go. The idea is that product gets on the shelf faster.

In addition, Walmart is testing how it can use a combination of in-store signage and handheld devices to help employees navigate to the right locations when picking items for an online order. So far, the change has reduced the time it takes employees to find the items, with the percentage of times employees find the item on their first attempt up 20% in some hard-to-pick categories. The end result is faster in-store fulfillment of online orders.

Walmart’s test stores will also continue to build upon a new experimental checkout experience the discounter introduced earlier in 2020. The retailer said it will continue to test different hardware and software solutions focused on enhancing and re-imagining a contact-free checkout experience for customers.

“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,” said Crecelius. “Evolving our stores is just the beginning. 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.

This story originally appeared on Chain Store Age