US — US retail giant Walmart has started rolling out new test stores that function as both physical shopping destinations and online fulfilment centers, a first-of-its-kind concept in the retail industry.

The move comes during the COVID-19 pandemic whose impact continues to redefine shopping habits and behaviors, prompting retailers to explore omnichannel avenues for consumers’ convenience.

Two hybrid outlets have already been set up by the retail giant and plans are underway to rool out more in the near future.

To increase the speed of development, product and technology teams will be embedded in the select Walmart stores to prototype, test and iterate solutions in real time.

In doing so, the company aims to facilitate a “true rapid prototype environment.”

“We’re moving quickly to use our physical retail stores to not only serve in-store shoppers, but to flex to meet the needs of online shoppers, too,” Walmart explained adding that it had identified four stores across the country [US] to serve as test centers.

In these centres, Walmart says, it will continuously rotate new technology, digital tools and physical enhancements with the intention of helping shoppers better.

 “Some of what we test will be visible to customers and some of it will not. Regardless, it’s the customer who will benefit,” Walmart said.

Some of the features to be tested in the new model include Inventory speed, First-time pick rate, and Checkout experience.

COVID-19’s influence over omnichannel consumption was recently highlighted in Innova Market Insights’ recently unveiled Top Ten Trends for 2020.

Indeed, industry players have been actively scaling up their in-house activities.

Impossible Foods, for instance, launched an e-commerce site for its US consumers to purchase family-size quantities of the plant-based Impossible Burger.

In March, a new virtual “in store” concept by LifeStyles in 360 debuted, allowing consumers to shop from their homes thanks to virtual reality technology, paired with a white-glove delivery service.

Walmart a retail giant that is known for its extensive network of brick and motor stores has also found itself increasingly innovating to adapt to the current wave of e-commerce.

“Evolving our stores is just the beginning. In the coming weeks and months, we’ll share more about how we’re reimagining our other physical assets to better serve the needs of customers today and into the future,” Walmart states.

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