Walmart to revamp 1K stores with digital in mind

Walmart plans to role out a new concept to 200 of its Supercenters this year and to 1,000 stores in all by the end of its next fiscal year, according to a company post.

Included in the remodels is new signage meant to encourage customers to download and use the Walmart app in stores and help them navigate through the store. 

Modeled off airports, Walmart's updated store concept is also trying to help customers navigate aisles and direct them to dedicated category sections such as produce and electronics. The remodels also include self-checkout kiosks and contactless payment systems, and select stores will have Scan & Go self-directed checkout.

Walmart described the remodel as "a completely new look and feel focusing on a digitally enabled shopping experience." It comes as the retail giant deepens the ties between its digital and store operations. 

The remodels reflect, via design, the gradual marriage of online and in-store buying, and the growing use of multifunctional apps that marry the two channels. The updated stores are also geared toward getting shoppers in and out of stores quickly, which is a key goal for many shoppers amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

It also comes as Walmart launches its Walmart+ membership service, which combines free delivery (a main feature of Amazon's Prime membership) with in-store perks like access to Scan & Go.

Over the course of more than a year, Walmart has been working to sharpen its focus online around its banner. To that end, it has shut down, which it acquired in 2016 at a record price for an e-commerce venture at the time, as well as its Jet Black urban shop-by-text service. It has also sold and the digital native lingerie retailer Bare Necessities, all of which Walmart had acquired relatively recently. 

The company's massive store base provides a potential competitive advantage, giving Walmart the ability to offer most of the country omnichannel services like buy online, pick up in-store and an easy returns channel. This year Walmart merged its e-commerce and store buying teams into a single merchandising organization. 

As Walmart's online and store sales become ever more entwined, a combined buying team is meant to be a way to simplify buying and improve communication with vendors, while also making the website better reflect what's in Walmart's stores.