‘Scan & Go’: Walmart Tests iPhone App Checkout Feature

Retail giant Walmart start testing a new iPhone-based self-checkout system

The world’s biggest retailer Walmart is testing a new system that would allow scan items using iPhones and then pay at a self-checkout counter. Photo: Ron Dauphin/Flickr

“Scan & Go” system is believed to change the way people shop and pay, making the process more convenient and faster.

“All of the effort is to speed your way through the checkout so that we can reduce costs and improve the shopping experience,” said Paul Weitzel, managing partner at retail consulting firm Willard Bishop.

“With smartphones and improved technology we’re only going to see more of this,” he added.

Last week saw reports claiming that Walmart invited employees with iPhones to take part in a test at a Walmart supercenter in Rogers, Arkansas.

The news comes in a few months after Walmart revealed its plans to add more self-checkout lanes at its Walmart and Sam’s Club stores as it seeks a way to lower costs and prices for its customers.

According to Chief Financial Officer Charles Holley, making purchases without the help of a cashier is estimated to save Walmart millions of dollars as the company spends more than $12 million in cashier wages every second at its Walmart U.S. stores.

Shoppers often complain on social networks and forums that it takes too much time to pay at Walmart, where sometimes only a few of the several checkout lanes are open and staffed with cashiers.

While some retailers employ baggers to speed up the process, at Walmart one employee scans and bags items.

“We’re continually testing new and innovative ways to serve customers and enhance the shopping experience in our stores,” said Walmart spokesman David Tovar.

Walmart’s iPhone service already includes functions such as letting shoppers create lists and seeing which items are in stock.

Employees of Walmart’s flagship Bentonville were asked to recruit friends and family for an hour-long trial run of the software, which is to be videotaped and analyzed to “assess the usability of the feature according to an internal survey”.

“We are simply trying to get feedback from real people on whether this new system is user-friendly,” reads the WalmartLabs survey page. Volunteers were rewarded with $100 cash and a $25 gift card toward their purchase.

“The research initiative is likely just an early step by the retail behemoth to determine whether the functionality creates a speedier, easier checkout process for its customers,” suggests Venture Beat.

“Walmart’s current iPhone application includes scan functionality that customers can use to check prices and get additional info on products.”

The tested app is also believed to be the culmination of multiple acquisitions made by Walmart Labs, the retail company’s social and mobile product incubator.

This winter, the company added iPhone app agency Small Society to its fold and picked up mobile point-of-sale startup Gabble in November 2011.

“We are continually testing new and innovative ways to serve customers and enhance the shopping experience,” a Walmart spokesperson told reporters. “At this point, we don’t have anything specific to share on that testing.”

By the way, self-checkout aisles are quite spread at many stores, but the ability to scan items with one’s mobile phone while shopping is kind of a breakthrough.

Among other tests, Supervalu Inc’s Jewel-Osco chain once let shoppers use handheld scanners and then enter that information at the checkout to pay, but that test ended years ago, Reuters reports.

“This is probably the fourth technology that we’ve tried between shopping carts, RFID chips, the handheld scanners and now we’ve got smartphones,” Weitzel said of the retail industry. “We’re looking for ways to improve that experience as an industry.”

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