Walmart, others making changes to stores to improve customer experiences

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) - Retailers are adjusting to the fast-paced lifestyles of their customers.

Walmart is rolling out facelifts for many of its stores, including several in Raleigh. However, the changes have to be more than a new coat of paint and redesigned layouts to attract customers to brick-and-mortar stores.

Facing increased competition from Amazon, Target and others, Walmart is spending $11 billion to make improvements to get people in and out of the stores faster. Walmart is also planning to use technology more to make things more efficient for customers.

Perhaps the biggest example of that technology is a 30-foot tower filled with merchandise that is being used as part of the company’s in-store electronic package pickup system, which is being rolled out nationwide.

“It makes the process and experience a lot easier and faster," said Kennedy Byrd, the e-commerce manager of Walmart’s New Bern Avenue store in Raleigh.  “By the time they get out of the car, get their package, and back in their car, it’s five or six minutes tops.”

Today’s customers don’t want to wait, and the redesign recognizes that by using self-check kiosks and other ways to make sure customers can get in and out of the store rapidly. It also includes grab-and-go items that are easy to find.

“It’s about trying to improve the efficiency of the overall shopping experience for our customer,” said Walmart market manager Jerry Herrin.

Wider aisles, better lighting, and customer-focused conveniences are part of the redesign. An example is new hand sanitizing stations in the meat department.

Herrin said it was this something customers asked for.

One problem with big box stores can be locating specific items. Walmart is using technology to change that by adding additional features to its app, which include a store-specific product locator.

When a user calls up an item on the app, the says what aisle it’s in. Users can touch the aisle icon to create a map of the store if further help is needed.

The changes have caught the attention of customers that CBS 17 spoke with.

“I’ve noticed the quality of the clothes, the lighting. I like that,” said customer Harriet Allen. “I’m getting older, so it’s good you can see a lot better.”

She added that she’s also noticed the New Bern Avenue store has made improvements at the point of sale.

"I can get in an out a lot quicker than I used to be able to," she said.

Despite the growing popularity of online shopping, a lot of consumers still like to be able to touch and appraise merchandise in person, so stores like Walmart need to continue to evolve to remain relevant.. 

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