Walmart’s plan to win the holidays: Faster checkouts and a simpler website

A Walmart Neighborhood Market in California. Two Walmart smaller-format Neighborhood Market stores will open in St. Peters in early 2016. (Courtesy: Walmart; via St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Walmart wants customers to find products more easily and check out faster this holiday shopping season.

Starting Thursday, the retailer will station store workers in the busiest sections of its 182,000-square-foot supercenters and smaller stores. The company is outfitting those workers with mobile checkout scanners to ring up customers on the spot.

Walmart (WMT) says the mobile scanners will allow shoppers buying big, bulky items such as Christmas trees and flat-screen TVs to bypass registers at the front and head straight to their cars.

“We put a lot of work in our stores on the checkout experience,” Steve Bratspies, Walmart’s chief merchandising officer said on a call with reporters Monday. “We’re always looking for new ways to do it. We think this is one that — particularly at the busy holiday time — customers are going to really appreciate.”

Walmart is also adding detailed digital store maps to its mobile app to allow shoppers to quickly find aisles and products.

The two initiatives underscore Walmart’s emphasis on smooth store operations and customer service during the holiday season. Despite the growth of online shopping, 85% of retail sales still take place in stores, according to a Moody’s report released earlier this month. That’s where Walmart is putting most of its firepower.

The company has an online strategy, too.

Walmart already redesigned its website earlier this year and added more than 2,000 brands. For the holidays, the retailer will add a “deals hub” that will refresh regularly with new promotions. That page will include a list of products recommended by Ellen DeGeneres.

Walmart also recently expanded the number of items available for free two-day shipping on its marketplace. Eligible orders must be worth $35 or more.

Competitor Target (TGT) said last week that it would offer free two-day shipping on all online orders during the holidays. Walmart executives said Monday that they have no plans to match that.

By Nathaniel Meyersohn, CNN Business