If You Shop at Walmart, Get Ready for These Major Changes
New innovation could mean you get the items you need from Walmart even faster.
Walmart shoppers look for reliability: When you head into one of the big-box retail stores, you know you're getting the products you need at a reasonable price. But Walmart is not without competition. Shopping habits changed over the course of the COVID pandemic, and beyond finding the best price, consumers now seek out the most efficient way to get what they're looking for. While Walmart has historically competed with brick-and-mortar stores like Target and Costco, Amazon has now moved up on Walmart's list. Thanks to Prime shipping, where customers have packages delivered to their doorstep within two days, Amazon has dominated the online marketplace. Now, Walmart is taking proactive steps to lure customers from its biggest competitor. Read on to learn about the major changes Walmart is setting in motion for shoppers.
Walmart could be making your shopping experience more convenient.
Announced earlier this year, Walmart is opening fulfillment centers in retail stores across the country, which will offer customers major benefits when it comes to delivery speed—getting you the items you need as soon as the next day. In a Feb. 2022 press release, TJ Stallbaumer of Walmart Corporate Affairs said that the company was working on last-mile delivery, otherwise known as the final step in the supply chain before you receive your order.
"We're redefining last-mile delivery by leveraging our stores as fulfillment centers and utilizing cutting-edge tech to take the guesswork out of deliveries, to reduce emissions, to make our supply chain network more efficient, and to ultimately serve our customers in totally new ways," Stallbaumer wrote.
When ordering from a fulfillment center, you will be able to have items shipped to you the next day.
Market fulfillment centers have been put in place to streamline the delivery process for online orders and meet demand faster. Fulfillment centers differ from distribution centers, which focus on receiving, storing, and distributing products to different Walmart stores. Compact market fulfillment centers, however, are located in physical Walmart stores, housing a variety of frequently-purchased products, including fresh and frozen food items, according to a Jan. 2021 press release written by Tom Ward, senior vice president of Customer Product at Walmart.
A Walmart location in Katy, Texas, is next on the docket to accommodate one of these fulfillment centers. "We have to be an ever-changing business, otherwise, we won't be successful," Robert Smith, the location's store manager, told the Houston Chronicle. "We're able to beat out our largest competitor, Amazon, because we're able to merge our brick and mortar stores with our online business and provide a better shopping experience on both sides of the market."
The Katy Walmart was selected for the $7 million remodel due to the fact that it receives the highest number of online orders in the Houston region, Smith said.
The innovative fulfillment centers save time and money.
Automated bots select the products customers order online, while Walmart associates select the fresh items, namely produce, meat, and seafood, the 2021 press release from Walmart explains. The system then assembles the items at a workstation and stores the order until a delivery driver or customer picks the order up. According to a Feb. 2022 article in The Wall Street Journal discussing Walmart's new delivery services, this also prevents aisles from being "clogged" with workers putting online orders together.
As Smith told The Houston Chronicle, the order can be completed just a few minutes after it is placed. Without the planned fulfillment center, workers at the Katy Walmart store were able to process approximately 350 orders each day, the Chronicle reported. With the renovation, that number is almost tripled, as the site will be able to fill nearly 1,000 orders daily.
"The average customer spends about seven hours a month grocery shopping," Smith said. "If we can save that customer that time, so that they can begin to reinvest that in their family—that's our goal."
Walmart plans to introduce more fulfillment centers in the future.
The first fulfillment center was piloted in Salem, New Hampshire in late 2019, and in March 2022, the company announced another fulfillment center near Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. According to The Wall Street Journal, Walmart is planning to build around 100 of these small, automated fulfillment centers, which will be attached to existing stores, over the next few years.