Digital and physical commerce. For a long time, these two had opposing visions of the customer journey. Until they realised that they could learn from each other. However, while so-called phygital experiments – bringing together the best of both worlds – have increased, we have to admit that they have never been widely deployed. At least, not until now and WALMART’s announcement.

Physical commerce is seizing digital codes and habits to create fluid and personalised customer journeys. WALMART is the latest example. It is expanding its new store concept, inspired by airports, on a large scale. Can they finally challenge the giants of e-commerce?

What’s at stake in the in-store customer journey?

“Fluid”, “stress and irritant-free”, “experiential”, “suits everyone”… this is without doubt what any store manager who knows his stuff wants for the customer journey. In recent years, new technology has emerged in this area. One of the most successful is AMAZON GO. The grocery concept developed by the e-commerce giant, through the fusion of advanced camera technologies, geolocation and data, lets you shop without having to go through the cash register or scan items. The shop can detect who you are, what you choose and then debit it directly to your customer account. It’s the famous “Just Walk Out”. Launched in 2016, the concept currently only has 27 stores in the USA. But, it has made the No.1 distribution giant, WALMART, sit up.

A connected customer journey serving the customer experience.

The American giant which owns 4,700 outlets has announced a major transformation plan for more than 1,000 of its stores, starting in early 2022. Its aim is to bring the customer experience and journey to the very heart of its businesses. To achieve this, WALMART will rely on its app. More a shopping companion, the app will help customers find their way around the store, and to pay at the contactless checkouts using WALMART PAY. But that’s not all. The design and layout of the stores have also been revised. The store will no longer be considered a well-designed warehouse, more or less well decorated to welcome customers. It will be a place to explore and experience, designed to ensure maximum fluidity in the shopping journey: large, clear and open aisles where products are highlighted attractively, rather than just stacked on shelves. This brand of retail design is directly inspired by airports. Transit areas that are designed to enhance the experience.

The customer journey: the key to customer loyalty

There’s no doubt about it. AMAZON has already paved the way and developed new tools, like the the connected shopping trolley. Screens and augmented reality now offer retail outlets a way to rival the online shopping experience and even draw us back the the high street. Unless the global pandemic has completely reshuffled the pack and given digital habits the stronger hand. In the USA a recent report revealed that millennials spend an average of 70% more time at home than the rest of the population.