First Look: Walmart debuts ‘smart’ grocery store concept in China

Walmart has opened its first small-format Walmart Supermarket, in Shenzhen, China, with five additional locations planned for the country by year-end. The new store is designed to deliver an integrated online and offline experience, with an emphasis on fresh foods, fast delivery, value and everyday convenience.

The 10,000-sq.-st. space, on the first floor of a multi-story structure, carries more than 8,000 items, with a localized assortment strategy tailored to the community. Designed by Tampa-based api(+), the store features a layout that seeks to enhance shopper convenience, with chilled vegetables, fresh fruit and frozen foods given prominence, alongside popular pre-prepared dishes. Prices are kept up to date through the use of electronic price tags.

Ninety percent of the inventory is also available online (on the Walmart Supermarket site at JD Doajia.) A high-tech stocking system allows associates to precisely locate products on the shelf and fulfill orders by the fastest product-picking route. The system enables home delivery as fast as 29 minutes to homes within 2 kilometers of the supermarket.

In addition to traditional checkout, the store offers Walmart’s “Scan & Go” option whereby customers can simply use a mini program on WeChat (China’s top social media platform) to scan the barcodes on products as they shop, without needing to download a program or use any special equipment. They then pay via their mobile device and quickly verify payment, bypassing the checkout counter. In all, there are three Scan & Go payment-verification stations, three self-service checkouts, and three traditional checkouts with cashiers. The space provides high-speed Wi-Fi to ensure customers can access the Internet to use Scan & Go and other online services in store.

In a two-month pilot, Walmart said, more than one in five customers chose to pay through Scan & Go, with about 95% of these planning to use the new way of payment again to save time. Overall, more than 50% of Walmart Supermarket customers chose online ordering, Scan & Go or self-checkout during the pilot period.

Walmart Supermarket also offers a variety of everyday services to meet the needs of local residents. Customers can take advantage of online options to buy e-gift cards, schedule home appliance maintenance, arrange flower delivery, make travel reservations, and more, without visiting the store. Available in-store services include laundry, key cutting, shoe repair and more.

The store has quickly become a daily shopping destination for nearby residents, according to api(+).

“Our team worked to create an environment supporting efficient labor and product handling and convenience for customers, as well as an effective use of technology to reduce operating costs and speed transaction time,” the design and architecture firm stated.

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