Cashless payments and click-and-collect services have already evolved the traditional in-store experience — now Walmart is exploring a new change to checkouts.
At one of its Supercenters in Fayetteville, Ark., the retailer is experimenting with a new checkout setup — which it says has the potential to reduce wait time for customers and reduce training for associates.
In the Supercenter, Walmart has eliminated all checkout lanes, instead placing 34 registers along the edges of an open area. Registers are equipped with a green light alerting associates and customers to available bays, and there are no cashiers manning the registers.
In the new layout, customers walk over to the register area and speak with a “Host,” the new title for the Supercenter’s former cashiers. If a shopper prefers self-checkout, the host will point them to an open register. Meanwhile, if a customer would rather be checked out by an employee, a host will scan and bag items, similar to the traditional format.
One of the pluses to the experimental system, Walmart says, is that it’s easier for customers to see which registers are open, as there are no physical barriers between lanes — which in turn speeds up the checkout process.
“When we had the old register layout, you have the sense that there is only a limited amount of space to checkout at. Now when they walk in, it is wide open. Any choice they want and any amount of help they need, we can offer them,” explained Carl Morris, manager of the Fayetteville store.
What’s more, Walmart says it’s easier to adapt if a store suddenly becomes busier, as there’s no need to open or close a lane to adjust to changes in store traffic. The retailer also says the new process is easier for employees to learn: Cashiers require an average of 40 hours of training, while training takes less than one day under the new system.
Like other retailers, Walmart made adjustments to store operations across its fleet during the coronavirus crisis — increasing sanitization, installing plexiglass barriers at registers and enforcing social distancing. As safety-minded consumers adjusted their habits during the pandemic, shoppers and retailers embraced contactless payment and other walk-in, walk-out options. According to a Euromonitor International report released this week, 35% of consumers have a strong preference for contactless options — with buy online, pickup in store in particular seeing significant growth.