Walmart Plots the Future Customer Experience

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Walmart Plots the Future Customer Experience

By Patrycja Malinowska, Shopper Marketing Magazine - 11/12/2016

Walmart’s vice president of marketing, customer experience Jamie Sohosky discussed the new demands of the retailer's shoppers in an increasingly digital world and how the giant is innovating to meet those needs at a keynote presentation during the recent Path to Purchase Expo.

Saving time for shoppers is critical, especially as shopping time becomes increasingly compressed. The Bureau of Labor Statistics' "American Time Use Survey" shows time for shopping has declined 13% over the last decade.

“Our customers across the board are price sensitive, they’ve always been interested in saving money,” Sohosky said. “What we noticed in the last few years is time has also become a really important currency.”

For Walmart, saving time mainly means helping the shopper get through her list quickly. When she feels like she saved money, got everything she needed and got out of the store in a decent amount of time, she feels a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction with the retailer.

“[Our shoppers] really look at saving money so that they can do other things with their family. But life is a juggling act, every day they have to fit pieces in and compartmentalize their time. And they want that time back,” Sohosky said. “They want to save the time just like they’re saving the money to do things with their family.”

The mass merchant has been immersing itself in disruptive digital technology — from AI and biotech to self-driving cards and robotics — and examining the impact it will have on retail.

“As we think about our reliance on digital and how that’s become such an important part of life, what we’re seeing is changing expectations our customer has when she’s offline … Her [digital] expectations have transferred to when she’s in the physical store as well,” Sohosky said.

More than 90% of Walmart’s sales still go through physical stores, so getting that right and bringing it together with the other layers of shopping is critical for the retailer.

“We’re looking at different layers of shopping: there’s actually buying in digital — e-commerce — there’s how you’re influenced by social, and there is shopping in a physical store using technology differently,” Sohosky said.

Conducting tests to learn about new solutions is part of the process. “We look at where we can make small improvements that have a big impact,” Sohosky said.

One-Sized to Personalized: “[Shoppers] want the experience to be about them and they’ve learned this from how they interact online,” Sohosky said.

  • Pickup: Available in all markets, the service lets you pick up e-commerce orders in a store as early as that day.
  • Grocery Pickup: A test in several markets that lets you order items including fresh produce.
  • Lyft and Uber: A third-party delivery test

Standing In line to Online: “We’re really focused on how we can help the [shopper] save time through the line,” Sohosky said.

  • Mobile check-in: Available in all markets, the service lets shoppers check in via Walmart’s mobile application so that their pickup order can be ready as soon as they arrive.
  • Scan & Go: A test that lets you scan your items as you put them in your basket and pay on your way out without having to go through the usual checkout process.
  • Walmart Pay: Available in all markets, the service saves shoppers the hassle of pulling out a wallet or credit card and stores receipts, gift cards, prescriptions and shopping lists.

Search to Guide: “Navigation has become really critical in our stores,” Sohosky said.

  • Mobile app: Offers an item locator and store-specific information.
  • Smart Life display: A smart-home display testing in a couple stores that simplifies the technology; created with Shoptology.

Dense to Digestible: “Shoppers’ attention spans are waning,” Sohosky said.

  • Icons: Borrowed from online and used to help guide shoppers across the store.
  • Tires touchscreen: Makes the considered purchase more accessible by letting shoppers find the right tire, see if it is in stock, read rates and review, do price comparisons and order.
  • Self-checkout hosts: Wearing yellow vests, they help guide and troubleshoot.