| USA TODAY
Walmart unveils annual subscription serviceOn Tuesday, Walmart announced a $98-a-year membership plan to rival Amazon Prime.A future trip to your local Walmart might soon remind you of shopping on the retailer’s app.Walmart unveiled a new, reimagined store design Wednesday rolling out to 200 locations this fiscal year, which ends in early 2021, and another 1,000 by next fiscal year that officials say will create a “seamless” omni shopping experience with more self-checkout kiosks and contactless payment options. Janey Whiteside, the retailer’s chief customer officer and an executive vice president, said the new design was planned before the coronavirus pandemic and one of the goals is to save shoppers time.”We’re working hard to make it easy for customers to be able to toggle between their physical experiences that are in the store and their digital journeys,” Whiteside said in an interview with USA TODAY. “We think customers are going to really enjoy and find this a much easier shopping experience.”Save better, spend better: Money advice delivered right to your inbox. Sign up hereWhiteside said Walmart has been testing the redesign in select stores in Arkansas and has evolved the design based on shopper and employee feedback. She said the design will come to more stores this fall and will continue to evolve based on additional feedback.Prime Day 2020: Amazon confirms annual Prime Day sale will be Oct. 13-14 with select deals now available for membersWalmart Black Friday 2020: Walmart promises ‘all-new Black Friday experience’ with earlier savings and more online deals, seeks 20K seasonal workers”By the end of this fiscal year, the experience will be in nearly 200 Supercenters as well as in select Health Centers and Neighborhood Markets, reaching close to 1,000 stores by next fiscal year,” Whiteside said in a blog post Wednesday.Walmart’s reimagined store designWhiteside said they got the inspiration for the design by “airport wayfinding systems as best-in-class examples of how to navigate large groups of people.”The signage on the outside of stores and inside is updated to reflect the Walmart app icon and there are visual reminders encouraging shoppers to download and use it while they shop such as how to use the app’s item finder and navigate around the store with a map.The design focuses “on getting what you want as quickly as possible so you’re not endlessly walking up and down aisles looking for items,” Whiteside told USA TODAY, adding the layout brings greater visibility to key items throughout the store, including dedicated in-store sections for electronics, toys, baby products and more.Stores also will include self-checkout kiosks as well as contactless payment solutions, including Walmart Pay, “to limit contact between associates and customers,” Whiteside said.Select locations will also have Scan & Go, part of the new Walmart+ membership program, she said in the blog post. With the in-store feature, shoppers scan items as they shop and then pay using Walmart Pay.Contactless payment and item finderRegardless of whether your Walmart is one of the first to get redesigned, there are some features available to all shoppers using the app, including the item finder with the maps and Walmart Pay options.A few months ago Walmart combined its Walmart Grocery app with its main app to allow consumers to shop for items in multiple departments, much like a trip to one of the company’s Supercenter stores.Until the recent upgrade, shoppers could only pickup groceries at curbside but were able to order items from other departments for pickup in the store. The pandemic sped up Walmart’s plans to integrate the apps because of a surge in online and mobile shopping, Whiteside said.Whiteside said COVID-19 advanced plans for the new store design rollout and contactless efforts, too. Customer interest and ease using contactless options also has increased, she said. “Whether you get the redesign now, next year or moving forward, you’ll still have access to Walmart+, Scan & Go, the delivery options,” Whiteside told USA TODAY. “This will just be another supporting aspect of that.”Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko.