Here’s what urbanites and rural dwellers have in common: The ability to memorize where things are within a grid. During my previous lifetime in New York, you could drop me anywhere below 34th Street and I could tell you where the nearest movie theater or supermarket was, where to get a good slice of pizza or find a non-Starbucks bathroom with no line.
Now that I live in the country, and am part of the 90% of Americans that live within 10 miles of a Walmart or Sam’s Club, the geographical memorization part of my brain is occupied by where things are within the Walmart Supercenter. My shopping lists are typically ordered by aisle, from the back of the store to the front.
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That’s because Walmart’s signage has been substandard. But now they’re rolling out a massive interior re-design, inspired in part by airports:
“We were inspired by airport wayfinding systems as best-in-class examples of how to direct large groups of people. We developed simple yet thoughtful designs to replicate these navigation efficiencies, which will help us move customers through the store more quickly.”
The redesign isn’t altruistic, of course. By reconfiguring the physical space, Walmart is hoping customers will walk around the store with their noses stuck in their smartphones–that is, using the Walmart app in what they call an “omni-shopping” experience:
“We’ve updated the Walmart signage on the exterior and interior of stores to reflect the Walmart app icon, creating an instant omni-shopping experience in the customer’s mind. As customers enter the store, they are greeted with clean, colorful iconography and a store directory that encourages them to download and use the Walmart app while they shop.”
“Throughout the store, bold, dimensional typeface (e.g. SEAFOOD, BEEF and DAIRY) directs customers to the exact section they are looking for, while aisles are marked with letter and number combinations to guide customers from phone to product.”
The redesign will start hitting the Supercenters this year and next. If my local Walmart becomes filled with shoppers bumping into me because they’re staring into their phones, I’ll feel just like I’m back in Manhattan.