Words by: Lauren Blass, Snr Director of Digital Strategy and Planning and Sal Bolaños, Creative Director, Mirum.
Recently, Walmart.com slowly began rolling out its new user-centric redesign. With the site’s contemporary look and feel, Walmart is focused on appealing to a broader base, as well as providing its customers with a tailored experience based on their previous purchase history and what’s trending in their area.
Walmart.com 2.0 prioritizes both form and function. Aesthetically, the site has a much cleaner look with a focus on relatable photography and products that are featured in a contextual setting. According to Mark Lore, President and CEO of Walmart US eCommerce, “Our goal is to make it compelling for customers to shop for whatever they’re looking for — whether diapers, laundry detergent or a new dining room table. We’re also expanding our color palette and adding fonts to bring more vibrancy and depth to the site.” It is evident that putting the customer first is and will continue to be the primary focus for online shopping moving forward.
And that’s not all Walmart is doing to improve the customer experience. Below, FOUR noteworthy user-centric design topics are outlined that play a significant role in expanding opportunities for marketers and making customers lives’ easier and more convenient.
Revealing A New User Interface & Visual Design
With Walmart’s clean, fresh lifestyle design, it is apparent that Walmart.com is aiming to drive market penetration and steal customers from Amazon, particularly the valuable older millennial customer. This more affluent segment is important to Walmart because they are heavier online shoppers and are at the life stage where they are forming life-long purchase habits. They enjoy spending time discovering products, which is more in line with the functionality of a lifestyle site. Walmart’s recent acquisitions of Bonobos, Modcloth and Moosejaw have created an opportunity to capitalize on those sites’ features to become more of an aspirational destination with look books and curated content vs. Amazon’s product marketplace.
Contextual imagery is also enabling the site to put products into real-life usage occasions and help customers envision the products in their own lives.
See the stark contrast to Amazon’s digital warehouse of products. For example, if a customer is looking to purchase a tent on Walmart.com, he or she could see how the tent looks within a camping scenario and view other options that could be useful for their trip. On Amazon, the customer is only able to see the particular tent they’re searching for without the contextual setting.
Beyond the visual basics like photography and fonts, Walmart has also moved away from its heavy blue header bar, and has transitioned to a more modern user interface design system with isolated elements to help them stand out. Elements like the search field now stand alone. This change simplifies the toolbar which helps users quickly access the most frequently used features of the site.
Finally, the new Walmart.com includes an expanded Tips and Ideas section that features inspirational lifestyle content like recipes, decór and fashion trends, entertaining ideas and more. This section has a trustworthy, blog-like feel that allows Walmart to serve products to customers in an untraditional way. The content is also sharable, which adds to the blog-like nature of the section and encourages the customer to engage more deeply with the content.
Personalizing the Experience
Functionally, the site is heavily focused on personalization based upon the individual’s behavior like browsing and buying, as well as their location. Several of the new features include top-selling items trending by location, and services that are available in a particular area — online grocery pickup, order status and easy reorder functionality. Online grocery pickup is one example of Walmart pushing for better integration between its online business and mobile apps with its 4,700 physical locations.
Opportunity: Once an item has been purchased, it will be placed into the Easy Reorder list. Whether items have been purchased in-store or online, consumers will now be able to easily revisit the list of all items that they have ever purchased to quickly reorder.
Implications: Targeting switchers and new market entrants with steep discounts to receive first placement on the reorder list should be an obvious marketing spend. The return is more akin to earned media value because consumers who were incentivized to purchase will always have that product at the top of their reorder history.
Not only will this feature help with quick and easy ordering through Walmart.com, it also extends to voice-assisted shopping via Google Home. Once a consumer has purchased a particular branded item, that item will be at the top of the list when being reordered via voice command. As this shopping medium continues to evolve, being first in voice search rankings will be key to winning in the space.
Online Grocery Pickup
Opportunity: This may not be a new feature, but it certainly is not something that is going away. Online Grocery Pickup leverages the footprint and competitive advantage that Walmart has as a company. OGP is currently available in 1,200 locations and is expanding to an additional 1,000 stores by the end of 2018. Walmart is focused on making the shopping experience quicker, easier and more convenient.
Implication: Marketers should determine how they can incorporate Online Grocery Pickup into their 2019 plans. For clients with a larger budget, this could look like participating in an OGP bag by including a free sample or coupon. Entire bags can be bought out by a brand, or brands can play into a co-op around holidays or seasons. For smaller budgets, support for OGP could come in the form of an Influencer campaign that walks readers through a step-by-step guide to placing orders online and picking up at the store.
Opportunity: Walmart is offering free 2-day shipping on all orders over $35 to help reinforce everyday low prices and the added convenience of shopping online.
Implication: The free 2-day shipping initiative is in direct competition with Amazon Prime’s delivery service. On this front, Walmart is a better deal because free shipping is available to all customers, unlike Amazon who only offers to its Prime members. This should continue to be a major advantage to Walmart.com since Amazon just increased its membership fees from $99 to $119.
Marketers have the opportunity to highlight how free 2-day shipping works by leveraging Influencers in the same way that they would in the OGP example. Influencers could document their path-to-purchase and highlight the ease and convenience of free shipping.
Opportunity: Marketers have the opportunity to take advantage of local recommendations. Walmart.com displays different trending items and images by location.
Implication: Brands should leverage their strengths with different offers in different markets. Marketers could leverage regions with a high Brand Development Index to drive loyalty. Enticing incentives on multiple purchases or value packs could be utilized to further drive brand penetration. For low BDI in attractive markets, brands could focus on single item purchase incentives to drive trial. The goal should be that the offers are popular enough in a particular area to get the item to trend. Trending leads to easier customer discoverability and hopefully, more conversion.
Making Design Accessible for Every Customer
The new Walmart.com also brings a greater understanding and awareness to the topic of accessible design for customers who may have disabilities such as color blindness or difficulty viewing composition, color, contrast, and motion.
For example, new icons in the simplified toolbar use color and type to provide more context for customers who may not know what the icons represent.
Walmart.com is also using color and text to call out items within its site. For customers with color blindness, these interface graphics provide context even if a color cannot be recognized.
Additionally, Walmart has an opportunity for further accommodations beyond visual design, notably in the area of keyboard navigation to accommodate those with mobility impairments or severe vision issues. But given the strong steps taken in this new redesign, we are confident that Walmart will very quickly be making these slight, but important, tweaks to coding to ensure the new site is accessible to all.
Implication: For any new content or design that will be placed on Walmart.com, marketers should always leverage the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) which help evaluate websites based on their accessibility for all users. The guidelines also provide a detailed checklist of items to edit or update.
Walmart.com clears a good amount of checkpoints for its latest redesign minus a few discrepancies within style sheets and natural language usage which only allows for English speaking customers.
This is Walmart’s biggest missed opportunity in not having the ability to translate the site into other languages. Part of the user-centric approach is not only thinking like the user, but also catering to their language preferences. This is a miss as this language barrier may intimidate (or turn off) customers who visit the site, resulting in customers leaving the site to take their business elsewhere.
Ensuring Product and Brand Pages are SEO-Friendly
Similar to how we read books, the most common way to read a webpage is from left to right. Similarly, the new Walmart.com has appropriately laid out their pages in this format — called the “F-Shaped Pattern” — which makes them easily scannable. This clear visual hierarchy reduces users’ cognitive load, helping them make choices faster and easier.
Implication: In addition to brand pages, marketers should also focus on updating their individual item pages with product specs and rich experiences to increase search rankings. Instead of repurposing commercials or current brand assets, new product photography with an ecommerce-first approach should be utilized. Product information should also extend beyond the traditional product specs to include consumer search interests, need states, features, etc. This should also be an opportunity to leverage photos and videos from Influencer campaigns to display how products can be utilized in an authentic, organic way.
Also, as marketers look to the future and how they can best optimize spends on Walmart.com, they should also consider how their products can play within the new experiences pages. Walmart launched its revamped home site in February 2018 with a focus on curated collections, editorial-style imagery and design tips written by an in-house staff. Walmart.com plans to launch its new fashion experience page through a partnership with Lord & Taylor later this year. With a heightened focus on these specialty shopping experiences, brands need to determine if and how they can cross-promote their products in fashion and home.
Brands should think about presenting themselves as part of an overall look for home and/or fashion. Could they play into a larger shoppable look book? Could they also lead the charge in co-developing other experience pages in beauty or fitness? Since Walmart has already looked to Amazon to replicate experiences within its site, we can assume that more experience pages will follow in the future.
Last year, Walmart.com generated nearly $14B in sales and averaged 127MM monthly visitors. With Walmart’s commitment to building out its e-commerce presence and continued focus on innovation, brands should also continue to innovate their marketing strategies to adapt to personalization, localization and time optimization trends.
Originally published at www.printmag.com on June 18, 2018.