BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Walmart has turned two of its stores in Northwest Arkansas into “innovation” test centers in an effort to better serve its online shoppers.
The Bentonville-based retailer on Thursday announced that the test centers will “continuously rotate new technology, digital tools and physical enhancements in and out of the stores.”
The purpose is to “find solutions that 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,” John Crecelius, SVP of Associate Product and Next Generation Stores with Walmart U.S. said on the company’s corporate blog.
The following stores in Northwest Arkansas are up-and-running as test centers.
- Bentonville Neighborhood Market #2686, 1703 E. Central Ave
- Springdale Supercenter #4108, 4870 Elm Springs Road
Two more are yet to come, but the company didn’t specify where they would be located.
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.”
Walmart provided the following examples of what’s being tested in Northwest Arkansas. According to the retailer, some of it will be visible to customers, and some won’t.
- Omni-assortment –Not everything stocked in stores today can be found online. In our first test store, we’re moving most of the in-store apparel assortment online, and we will continue to identify other hard-to-manage categories that we can work to make available. 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.
- Inventory speed –We recently developed an app that speeds up the time it takes to get items from the backroom to the sales floor. Instead of scanning each box individually, associates just hold up a handheld device, and the app uses augmented reality to highlight the boxes that are ready to go. Product gets on the shelf faster – something we all know is increasingly important.
- First-time pick rate –We’re currently testing how we can use a combination of in-store signage and handheld devices to help our associates navigate to the right locations when picking items for an online order. So far, this simple change has reduced the time it takes our associates to find the items. In fact, the percentage of times associates find the item on their first attempt has gone up by 20% in some of the categories that tend to be our hardest to pick. What this means for customers is that their orders get filled faster.
- Checkout experience –These stores will continue to build upon a new experimental checkout experience we introduced earlier this year to help transform a transactional experience into a relational one. We will continue to test different hardware and software solutions focused on enhancing, and even re-imagining, a contact-free checkout experience for customers.
According to Walmart, the company will provide more information in the coming weeks and months on how it is “reimagining our other physical assets to better serve the needs of customers today and in the future.”