Walmart jumps ahead of Amazon with Scan & Go

Dive Brief:

  • Walmart is offering a Scan & Go capability in several stores that allows shoppers to use a mobile app to scan barcodes of items they want to buy, pay for them in-app with one touch and show the in-app receipt to a greeter as they leave the store — entirely avoiding checkout lines and physical payment terminals, Business Insider reported.

  • After testing earlier this year, the retailer is rolling out Scan & Go to more than a dozen stores in Texas, Florida, South Dakota, Arkansas, Georgia and Kentucky, the reported stated. Customers who want to try it need to download Walmart’s Scan & Go app to their smartphones.

  • Shoppers without smartphones can take advantage of similar capabilities with hand-held scanners provided by Walmart. Additionally, users of the Scan & Go app who don’t want to save credit card info in the app also have the option of visiting a self-checkout register in-store to pay.

  • Dive Insight:

    Walmart's Scan & Go is similar in some ways — though not all — to what Amazon is doing with Amazon Go, the cashierless convenience store concept now being tested, and which reportedly ran into some technology hurdles earlier this year.

    Matt Sargent, senior vice president of retail at Magid, a research-based consultancy, noted in an e-mail to Retail Dive that Walmart's solution isn't quite as frictionless as Amazon Go. With the former, "you have to manually scan each product (in Amazon Go, the product is automatically 'sensed' when placed in the basket with RFIC [radio frequency integrated circuit technology])," he said. "[A]nd you have to still 'checkout' with the store greeter by showing him your digital receipt (with Amazon Go there is no need for the final 'check')."

    Still Sargent said it is noteworthy that Walmart is now putting Scan & Go in the hands of real customers (after a one-store trial earlier this year), while the ongoing Amazon Go trial is open only to Amazon employees. "Walmart should be applauded for actually putting this into motion with real customers versus how Amazon is testing Amazon Go," he stated.

    Overall, the rollout of Scan & Go on a wider basis seems like more evidence that Walmart is not willing to yield easily to Amazon (not to mention Lidl and Aldi.) The retailer is making decisive strategic moves on the organizational front, reportedly making leadership changes to its food team, and on the technology front, investing in machine learning and developing its own facial recognition technology to monitor customer satisfaction in-store.

    Having a dozen or so stores with the capability is of course not quite the same as offering it on a nationwide basis, but if customers start using it, maybe there will be a further expansion coming soon. Perhaps Walmart is being cautious because it did try out this kind of capability once before, a few years ago. It reportedly didn't catch on but it wasn't all that clear if, or how, customers were using their mobile phones while in stores. All that has changed, and if anything, they are starting to expect more cutting-edge capabilities from retailers.

    Recommended Reading:

in Retail