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The retailer announced Thursday that it is designating four stores, two of which are near its headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., to test "new technology, digital tools and physical enhancements" to help them operate as "physical shopping destinations and online fulfillment centers."
Although some of the adjustments won't be "visible to customers," John Crecelius, senior vice president of Walmart's associate product and next generation stores in the U.S., said the changes will "benefit" the customer and the new era of retail.
The shift indicates the retailer's investment in e-commerce, a sector that has seen exponential growth worldwide over the course of the pandemic. In March, transaction volumes in most retail sectors have seen a 74% compared to the same period last year, according to analysis by ACI Worldwide.
In Walmart's case, U.S. e-commerce sales spiked 97% in the fiscal second quarter as Americans continued to utilize its online ordering and curbside picks services. Meanwhile, Walmart's U.S. same-store sales climbed 9.3% during the quarter. Similarly, e-commerce sales at its Sam’s Club grew 39% during the fiscal second quarter.
As consumers continue to favor digital options, Walmart will move most of the in-store apparel assortment online within its first test store. Not everything that was stocked in-store was previously available online, according to the retailer.
Walmart is also deploying a recently developed app that is said to speed up the time it takes to get items from the backroom to the sales floor, getting products on the shelves faster. It is also using in-store signage and handheld devices to "help our associates navigate to the right locations when picking items for an online order."
The stores will also "build on" the contactless, self-checkout registers the company launched earlier this year.
The company assured customers Thursday that it will continue to make adjustments and plans to "reimagine other physical assets of its stores to better serve customers."