Walmart shared details on the self-checkout-only experience at its Fayetteville, AR, store, designed to improve traffic flow and reduce training time.
The experimental store features 34 registers with green lights that indicate when a checkout bay is available. Store associates — Walmart calls them “hosts” in this environment — direct consumers to available registers, and customers who still want help checking out and bagging can receive assistance.
All of the registers are in an open-area layout, which the company designed in order to speed up checkout. With traditional lanes and physical barriers, customers typically search for the shortest line that seems to be moving the fastest. Bottlenecks become common as lanes aren’t able to quickly adapt to changes in traffic flow, and associates lack a birds-eye view of which areas are moving and which aren’t.
“This creates a never-ending grass-is-always-greener scenario where the customer spends time calculating which line will take the least amount of time,” said Matt Smith, Walmart corporate affairs, in a Walmart blog post.
The open area instead promotes more individual customer attention that also requires less employee training. Whereas Walmart cashier training requires an average of 40 hours, training for a host position is accomplished in less than a day.
Social distancing will also be easier because there will be more room to maneuver.
“By nature, individual lanes make the checkout experience transactional, but being face-to-face, the interaction becomes a relationship,” said John Crecelius, senior VP of Walmart U.S. innovations development. “We want to make it a personal experience.”