Endless Big Box

By Lola Thélin

Photos courtesy of Barrows


There’s a good chance that the Walmart of 1962 would not recognize the big-box chain of 2017. In the past 12 months, the world’s largest retailer has been busy saying “yes” to innovation. The change movement began with the 2016 purchase of Jet.com, the fast-growing e-commerce company led by Co-Founder and CEO Marc Lore. Shortly afterward, Lore became president and CEO of Walmart’s U.S. e-commerce division, and an acquisition spree commenced. Earlier this year, Walmart acquired online outdoor retailer Moosejaw and quirky women’s online specialty retailer ModCloth, and currently is in talks to purchase online retailer Bonobos.

Its digital conquest is only beginning. “Walmart is open to change and is fully embracing innovation,” says Kevin Schmidt, managing director at Columbus, Ohio-based FITCH, which partnered with Walmart to launch its latest idea—the endless aisle. “Walmart originally changed the face of retail years ago, and it is setting itself up to do it again.”

The brainchild of Lore, the endless aisle comes to life as in-store digital displays that enable customers to discover additional selections and brands, and at even lower prices. Purchases via the displays are available for pickup in-store up to 48 hours later. The concept was brought to life by a group consisting of Walmart’s incubator Store No. 8, WPP sister companies FITCH, Barrows and Rockfish, and Walmart’s Innovation Team.

“The idea was to give customers more choice in key categories and access to brands and products that are top-selected [items] in their category,” Schmidt says. “These are products and brands that [customers] normally would not have access to in-store.” The life-size touchscreen monitors debuted in Tomball, Texas, in mid-February and will be implemented in two additional stores
this summer.

The endless aisle disrupts the environment and fundamentally changes the economics of a store by eliminating the last mile. They provide a more inclusive shopping experience for customers, who can immediately use the monitors to see what else is available rather than head home to search on their computers. Perhaps, more importantly, the endless aisle brings new data on how to interact with customers differently and a better understanding of how they want to shop. This knowledge is exactly what will help the savvy retailer continue its mission to become a more digital enterprise.

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