As technology continues to change, retailers have to find innovative ways to test new tech in a realistic environment. Walmart announced today that it plans to turn four stores into technology test centers to help shoppers in physical locations and online.
“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. That’s where our new test stores come in. Their 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 at Walmart, wrote in a corporate post.
Walmart will use the four stores to try out new technology and digital tools, while making other physical enhancements. Each store will have product and technology teams working along with other staff to test ideas rapidly.
Some of the changes include testing augmented reality with apps. “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,” Crecelius wrote.
Walmart may view its ability to test ideas and products in physical stores as an advantage over online retailers. Since today’s shoppers still combine going to a physical location and purchasing things online, it gives the company the opportunity to capture their attention in more ways.
“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,” Crecelius added.
It appears that Walmart wants to turn its stores into locations where shoppers can still buy items on their own while also serving online customers. This would create more physical stores that double as fulfillment and pickup centers, which would give the company an edge over retailers that lack brick-and-mortar locations.