Walmart on Thursday unveiled what it’s calling an "interactive store" prototype, which is being tested at its Store 4108 incubator location in Springdale, Arkansas.
Dubbed "Time Well Spent," the store includes improved lighting and use of space, more dynamic displays, and QR codes and digital screens that "create opportunities for digital exploration," according to a company blog post written by Alvis Washington, vice president of marketing for store design, innovation and experience.
The test follows an earlier store redesign focused on navigation and wayfinding that Walmart has brought to nearly 1,000 stores after "overwhelmingly positive" feedback, Washington said.
If Walmart's "Time Well Spent" store feels familiar, it could be because the merchandising approach resembles rival Target's store revamp, which was launched five years ago and has been paying off ever since.
Walmart's Springdale store features "activated corners," displays designed to attract attention and allow customers to visualize or experience the products; "elevated brand shops," which operate like a store within a store; more space, to allow for better storytelling; and digital displays, where customers can scan QR codes to find out about more items or services or place an order, Washington said in the blog post.
These tactics also resemble those employed by another type of retailer not usually thought of as competitors of discounters like Walmart and Target. These mass merchants are employing what Retail Speak Founder Sanford Stein, who has spent 50 years in retail store design, calls "the vocabulary of the department store."
"I refer to it as solution-based rather than product-based retailing," he said by phone. "It's something that a good department store of the past did well, and it's increasingly important as sales continue to shift more online."
Target has nailed the approach, and continues to improve on it, making its stores a place for discovery and not just the checking off of a to-do list. These improvements at Target and Walmart stores present a challenge for the likes of Kohl's and Macy's, whose own stores often lack the level of merchandising that makes a store worth traveling to, Stein said.
Or, as Washington put it Thursday, "a destination where customers want to spend their time."