Walmart testing out Scan & Go app to cut checkout time

App would let customers scan items while they shop, then use phone at self-checkout

Technology trends and news by Steven Loeb
September 2, 2012
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I love self-checkout. When I go into a store, and only want to buy one or two things, it saves me so much time to just go and do it myself, rather than waiting on a line for 15 minutes as some little old lady counts her pennies. Of course, as soon as something becomes more convenient, there will be someone asking if is there any way to make even that process go faster.

Walmart may have found the answer. The retail giant is currently testing out a new app that would allow its customers to scan their items onto their iPhones, called Scan & Go, according to a report by Reuters.

The way the app works is it would allow a customer to scan the items they want to purchase as they shop. The customer would then go to the self-checkout and simply scan their phone rather than having to go item by item. People would not be able to pay using this app, but it would save time when trying to leave the store.

The app would also reportedly allow customers to create shopping lists and to see which items are in stock at their local Walmart.

The app was originally tested by Walmart employees with iPhones in Rogers, Arkansas, which is near the company's headquarters. Walmart then was reported to have been asked by those employees who participated in the initial survey to recruit friends and family for a second study.

There are obvious benefits to Walmart, if the app becomes mainstream. Not only would it improve the shopping experience for its customers, but it would save the company time and money if it can get customers out the door quicker.

Walmart has said it spends $12 million every second in cashier wages in its U.S. locations. This new app could be a crucial step in reducing the number of cashiers that Walmart employs and the amount of money it has to spend paying them.

There is no word at this time as to what future plans Walmart has for this app, but it would not be too presumptuous to think the company would want to eventually expand the app beyond the iOS system.

Other recent Walmart activity

Earlier this month, it was announced that Walmart would be partnering up with Target, 7-11, and Sunoco, among others, to build the Merchant Customer Exchange and add another app to customers’ smartphones, which would compete with other PayPal, Square, Intuit, and the dozens of other mobile payment services.

The group first started to make rumblings in March and are now setting their sights on the mobile payments ecosystem which could equate to more than $1 trillion annually.

Having their own mobile payment app would allow these retailers improved data on their customers. Mobile payment services create very complete and real-time update profiles of each user and allow retailers to really understand their shopper. Now combining dozens of retail locations would build and even more complete profile of each person and allow them to leverage it and sell more to them each time they walk into a partner location.

The app would also help the companies negotiate better credit card fees so that why are capturing more of the revenue rather than handing over to credit card providers, POS systems and other middlemen. 

Research out this summer from Gartner said that 2012 will see more than $171.5 billion in mobile payment transactions. That is an increase of 60% over 2011′s $105.9 billion.  This means that 212.2 million people (up 32% from 160.5 million in 2011) are using some form of mobile payment service. 

Walmart was not available for comment.

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