Execs from Walmart have noticed these industry patterns as well, and are ready to take on this next chapter of brick-and-mortar shopping.
“In some ways, it feels like we’re getting back to normal, but I think what we’re really heading to is a new normal, which will be a blend of what we were before the pandemic and some of the things we’ve learned to do — just like we’re talking today, remotely. Some of that will continue. I think some of our trends with shopping that have changed will continue, and we’re looking forward to seeing what’s next,” said John Furner, Walmart U.S. President and CEO, at National Retail Federation’s Retail Converge conference.
Although there’s not a super clear picture as to which trends are here to stay, execs are certain that retail has experienced an evolution unlike ever before, with a “new normal” emerging. And now, all consumers will be using an omnichannel approach as a key part of their shopping habits.
“What we try to think about is how we’re positioned to be able to do anything a customer needs at any time. That’s really the strength of the positioning of Walmart. We’ve got a store footprint that’s up to about 4,700 locations. The supply chain is able to serve fulfillment centers and stores. Stores are now acting not only as a store, but as a fulfillment center in some ways, because we’re able to pick orders for pickup, for delivery InHome for Walmart+ members and for e-commerce,” Furner said.
Walmart has transitioned their business model to cater directly to pandemic-induced uncertainties, and built the flexibility to meet ever-changing consumer demands. Near the end of their first quarter of 2021, Walmart saw in-store traffic shift from negative to positive year over year, coinciding with the one-year mark of the pandemic outbreak in the US. This was a clear signal to execs that consumers feel more comfortable to shop in stores again.
“It’s still a bit too early to call, and I’m probably going to say that in a year. Because the thing I know about customers and have learned over the years is that they will continue to change based on the experiences they have, and customer expectations continually rise. For those that meet customer expectations and change with customers, they’ll be successful. And when you don’t meet customers’ expectations, and don’t change with them, you tend to be unsuccessful,” Furner added.