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Walmart ramps up mobile in-store strategy to save customers time

March 22, 2013

In a sign of the growing role that mobile is playing inside physical stores for major retailers, Walmart is significantly expanding a pilot program enabling customers to self-checkout using their iPhone.

The Scan & Go program was launched late last year and has been rolled out to 70 stores, mostly in Arkansas and Georgia, over the past few months. It is now being introduced in a total of 200 stores, including in Austin, Seattle and Denver.

“Our customers are shopping differently than they ever have before – they’re using their mobile devices to search for coupons, compare prices and navigate aisles,” said Ashley Hardie, manager of corporate communications at Walmart, Bentonville, AR. “So in order to meet their ever-changing needs, we’re experimenting with innovative technologies like mobile self-checkout, saving them time and money.

“Fifty percent of our customers have smartphones and are actively using them as they shop,” she said. “Our focus is bringing together digital and physical assets to provide seamless customer experience, anytime and anywhere.

“So far this year, more than half of our customers come back and use the technology a second time. Customer feedback has been helpful and we’re hearing they enjoy having the choice and convenience Scan & Go offers.”

In-store mode
To use the service, customers need to download the Walmart app, either from Apple’s App Store, by texting the keyword SCAN to the short code 63257 or by scanning a QR code that appears in marketing materials supporting the program.

Once inside a store, customers can open the app, choose In-Store mode and scan the bar codes on the products they want to purchase as they move through the aisles. Doing so automatically checks items off a shopping list if users have created one.

From there, consumers can bag items and go to the self-checkout lane where they scan a QR code that appears on a screen to transfer their basket and then pay. Users can request an electronic receipt as well as a paper one.

Scan & Go currently only works on iOS devices.

An Android version is expected to be introduced soon.

The new markets getting Scan & Go are Denver, CO; Phoenix, AZ; Omaha, NE; Dallas and Austin, TX; Oklahoma City and Tulsa, OK; Wyoming; Bozeman, MT; Seattle, WA; San Jose, CA; and Portland, OR.

Better shopping experiences
To accommodate the expansion of the program, Walmart has installed self-checkout lanes in 1,500 stores and plans to add them to another 1,000 to 1,500 stores this year.

While the mobile program is getting significantly larger, it is still in only a fraction of Walmart’s  more than 4,000 stores in the United States.

Walmart introduced the In-Store mode for its app early last year and has been focusing on building out features ever since.

Because Walmart stores are geo-fenced, when users open the Walmart app inside a store, they are prompted to enter the In-Store Mode. Once they do, the app surfaces features and content that is specific to that store, including price check.

During the 2012 Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Walmart introduced a new interactive store locator map enabling customers to click on items from the Black Friday circular and see where they are located, a price and item description (see story).

“Through our mobile app, we’re bringing personalized ecommerce to our customers wherever they go,” Ms. Hardie said. “So whether it’s making shopping lists and researching products before they shop or helping them find products while they’re in the store, we’re turning their smartphones into a powerful tool to improve their shopping experience.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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