Web Exclusive: Walmart’s Mobile-First Makeover

In the digital, contactless, pandemic era, grocery shopping has changed forever.
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Posted November 10, 2020

Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart, one of most internationally recognizable brands and influential hypermarkets, has had an overhaul. The world is rapidly changing around us, and our consumer needs are altering with it, forcing the retail industry to reimagine shopping in the digital, contactless, pandemic era.

“One of the greatest challenges in design is simplicity at scale,” says Brandon Boston, Design Director at Landor & Fitch (Cincinnati), the design consultancy that worked in tandem with Walmart’s own team to make over the Elm Springs, Ariz., store. “Our remit was to deliver a space for seamless shopping that suits a customer with a smartphone in their hand.”

With the mantra “heads down, expectations high” in mind, the new Walmart store has been designed mobile first. As so many customers browse online before entering a brick-and-mortar store, it makes sense from a design perspective to lead with the app blueprint. “The in-store system was built around the digital experience,” says Alvis Washington, VP, Marketing – Store Design, Innovation and Experience at Walmart. With the ability to search for a product and find it on a map in the app, as well as pay for the shop, “a customers’ mobile phone acts like a remote control to the store.”

Getting from A to B

In terms of navigation, “we looked outside the retail category to spaces like airports and museums for inspiration on how to remodel the Walmart store,” Washington reveals. These are places where large numbers of people need to be ushered through efficiently – no mean feat for a brand that sees 150 million shoppers per week.

With wide walkways and clean lines reminiscent of a terminal, the new layout is easy to follow, which saves customers time they can spend exploring the space. Departments are now clearly grouped into intelligent categories rather than scattered, and areas for testing products such as strollers or electronics are easy to spot.

Speaking the Same Language

To speak directly to the customers, the store has “a consistent design language, just like an airport”, says Washington. Bold, straightforward signage is a directory to the goods, replacing traditional Walmart graphics and lifestyle stock photography as markers above the aisles. “This lends timelessness,” says Washington. “Signage takes a step back and lets the product be the hero.”

“We leveraged iconography in a big way”, says Boston, seen in the alphanumeric characters that identify each aisle and the symbols that reveal information about products, such as sustainably sourced or organic. Subtle changes have been made to typography, too. “There were some massive vertical spaces to fill above the produce shelves, which we solved by condensing the typeface to suit the space.”

Out of the Blue

The classic Walmart color palette comes to the fore in this design, with the iconic blue badge adorning the front of the store, visible from a great distance, and the spark yellow only appearing in touches.

“There is additional color coding in areas that make sense,” explains Boston, “like green to signify organic produce, while approachable materials like wood appear around sections including grocery, home, beauty and baby to make the spaces [warmer.] We were strategic about where we dialed up color, around entry moments, for example, or in using black and white to focus the eye.”

Keeping Distance

“The pandemic has allowed us to lean more quickly and heavily into new ways of shopping,” says Washington. “We are now providing efficient, touch-free ways for customers to check out.” This includes the newly unveiled Scan & Go facility, which is activated via the app.

Following the trend towards contactless shopping that is established in Europe, 200 redesigned stores will roll out across the U.S. by the end of this year and another 800 by the close of 2021. Walmart is blazing a trail in the U.S. to stand up against competitors like Amazon (Seattle) in the household retail space. “Landor & Fitch has a global perspective on markets around the world, so we were able to select the elements that would work best for the Walmart customer,” says Boston. With attitudes towards grocery shopping becoming more focused on getting in and out as quickly as possible, the redesign is set to exceed expectations.

PROJECT SUPPLIERS

Retailer
Walmart, Bentonville, Ark.

Design
Landor & Fitch, Columbus, Ohio

Architecture
BRR Architecture, Inc., Overland Park, Kansas

Fixtures
idX Corp., Bridgeton, Mo.
Anderson Retail Consultants Ltd., Belfast, Ireland

Flooring
Jones Tile, Roach, Mo.

Furniture
idX Corp., Bridgeton, Mo.
Anderson Retail Consultants Ltd., Belfast, Ireland

Lighting
Cree, Inc., Sturtevant, Wisc.
Acuity Brands Lighting, Inc., Des Plaines, Ill.
Rexel, Inc., Dallas, Texas
Regency, Chatsworth, Calif.
GE Lighting Solutions LLC, East Cleveland, Ohio

Signage/Graphics
Miller Zell, Bentonville, Ark.

Wallcoverings and Materials
Miller Zell- Bentonville, Ark.

In-Store Technology
Walmart technology team

MEP Engineer 
Henderson Engineers, Inc., Bentonville, Ark.

Civil Engineer
CEI Engineering Associates, Inc., Bentonville, Ark.

Structural Engineer
Johnston Burkholder Associates, LLC, Kansas City, Mo.

General Contractor
Jetton General Contractors, Jonesboro, Ark.