Will Walmart’s Scan & Go catch on this time around?

Discussion
Photo: Walmart
Jan 19, 2017
Matthew Stern

Some ideas were ahead of their time and that’s how Walmart appears to see its Scan & Go mobile app. The retailer is bringing the discontinued mobile checkout app back into the pilot phase.

Walmart began a pilot run of the reintroduced app in a single store in Rogers, Arkansas, according to Tech Times. The app, released to the Google Play store on January 9, enables shoppers to scan the barcodes of items with their smartphones as they put them in their baskets. They then check out via mobile shopping cart and need only present their receipt to leave the store. The app also keeps a running tally of the cost of groceries, so shoppers can track their spending throughout their shopping trips.

The first run of Walmart’s Scan & Go app began in September of 2012 and was eventually expanded to a few hundred stores. Walmart shut down the pilot in 2014 because customers in the test locations could not figure out how to use it.

Walmart has been exploring other ways to speed the checkout process since the failure of the original app. In 2015, the chain began piloting a version of Scan & Go that does not rely on an app, according to The City Wire. Rather than being smartphone-based, it requires the use of an in-store scanner that a customer could pick up and activate at a kiosk at the front of the store.

The attempted revival of the mobile app could be a sign Walmart is more confident its shoppers will install and use mobile apps than it was a few years ago. It also likely indicates that Walmart is getting antsy about Amazon Go. Amazon’s much talked-about checkout-free grocery store could, if it functions as planned, get customers used to the idea of getting in and out of the store without standing in line.

Walmart may be emboldened by recent pilots of a similar app in Sam’s Club. The Sam’s Club Scan & Go app, which the chain began experimenting with last summer, appears to be more popular than earlier iterations of the technology.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What factors will contribute to Scan & Go possibly being more attractive to Walmart customers this time around? Will scan/checkout apps be commonplace in retail stores in the years ahead?

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Braintrust
"The world is moving in this direction and sometimes technology is ahead of customers, but not for long."
"As customer-centric options continue to flourish in the market, it will be increasingly difficult for alternative approaches to compete."
"Good move by Walmart and points to one of the major changes we’ll see in US retailing over the next two years."

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22 Comments on "Will Walmart’s Scan & Go catch on this time around?"


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Kai Clarke
BrainTrust

This is still a foreign concept for many shoppers. Checkout apps need to be standardized, not customized, for them to work. Until there is a standardized app for everyone to use anywhere, individualized apps for each store will only add to the confusion. This concept needs a Facebook or Twitter app that everyone uses, not commercialized apps for every location. Until this happens, these apps will not make the cut and consumers will continue to be confused.

Keith Anderson
BrainTrust

It’s all about reducing or eliminating friction. The less cognitive effort a shopper has to go through to find this app, download and install it, launch it and process a payment, the likelier it will catch on.

Similar efforts have often been hampered by placing the customer’s experience second or third in the order of priority, with the retailer’s strategic or financial goals taking precedence.

As customer-centric options continue to flourish in the market, it will be increasingly difficult for alternative approaches to compete.

Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust
Walmart Scan & Go allows the customer to avoid the dreaded checkout process by shifting the work to the customer. This includes scanning the merchandise and bagging it. It would seem to be an idea whose time has come. There are issues however. The first is the ease of deleting the item if after wandering down the aisle the customer decides they don’t want an item. The second is, if they are planning to buy a lot of merchandise, who do they want to handle the checkout process? Themselves or someone else? The final issue would be those who want to scam the process. It may be hard to hide an item the customer “forgot” to scan if they buy only a few items but if they are buying a lot and have them bagged then hiding a few items just got a whole lot easier. The door checker process is also easy if there are a few items. However if for some reason they question the customer receipt of their bagged goods, the customers… Read more »
Bob Amster
BrainTrust

I agree with Kyle on standardization. People shop for groceries in more than one place and don’t want to be burdened with one app per store. On the other hand, the concept is gaining more buzz if not necessarily more traction. The key is in the statement: “customers in the test locations could not figure out how to use it.” If the app is user-friendly consumers will adopt it because it is more convenient. Let’s see …

Max Goldberg
Guest

I’m glad to see Walmart experiment and test new ideas, even recycle old ideas. That’s the way to grow. By reintroducing Scan & Go, Walmart will at worst gain new technology insights and at best make the shopping experience easier for consumers.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
BrainTrust

The key to this latest experiment is to offer a convenient, seamless and customer-friendly experience. Obviously, the greatest advantage to the customer is the avoidance of the dreaded checkout line. We know that the longer you keep customers in stores and the faster you get them out, the quicker they will return. Additional potential advantages should be a customized shopping list, based on purchases, that customers can use for subsequent shopping trips. Also, I expect this latest technology links coupons and promotions at the point of sale. The world is moving in this direction and sometimes technology is ahead of customers, but not for long.

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)
Guest

If ever there was technology push over consumer pull it is at self checkout. It is rooted in the frustration that comes with retailers making it hard for consumers to give their hard-earned money after making the time to go to the store and shop. Isn’t it time for retailers to invest adequately to make this shopping experience work properly en masse?

Carol Spieckerman
BrainTrust

It’s great to see Walmart getting back on the horse with Scan & Go. The solution has absolutely increased the frequency with which I shop at Sam’s — it’s a game-changer — and parlaying the convenience to Walmart makes total sense. The scam factor is the biggest potential problem given that Walmart baskets are often filled beyond the brim with items tiny and massive, particularly near pay days. I’m sure that Walmart has factored this in. Never give up!

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

This is, of course, a really old idea. Some European operators have been using handheld self-scanners for years. Scan the items as they enter the basket, put the scanner back in its cradle when you are done, get a receipt, pay and you are out. It’s a simpler system really and accomplishes the same things. That said, if you want to develop an app-based scanning system it should be an agnostic platform. So it shouldn’t just be available from Google and it shouldn’t just work at Walmart. I’d like to know a little more detail about what has changed since the first attempt failed. Does Walmart think customers have become that much more tech-saavy? What about the obvious security issues? Are there other solutions such as 360 degree scanning pay stations? I salute them for trying something new (again) but I don’t think this is the last chapter.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
BrainTrust

Deleting items and buying multiples of the same product are issues as well as figuring out the process to do those things. Maybe Walmart has an effective solution this time around. Costco ran a test of using in-store devices but that has disappeared and was not rolled out. Finding a tool, software and an interface that works for a variety of customers has not yet been mastered so everyone will be watching the Walmart test with interest.

Dan Raftery
Guest

A lot of good discussion here about what it will take for Scan & Go to succeed this time around, but little comment on shopper demographics. I’m not sure the same demographics apply to Amazon Go, Sam’s Club and Walmart shoppers. Since this is leading-edge technology and Walmart is a mass retailer, it seems that scale might be an issue here. On the other side of the question, what would probably kill it again would be higher shrink in test stores.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

The technology is appealing as it makes the checkout process more convenient for the customer. That’s always a good thing. However there are strings attached. Those strings are in the form of educating a customer to use the app and new process. Make it easy and intuitive. Give them an incentive — a free drink or something of minimal but appreciated value — to reward their effort to learn and use the new technology.

In the last two years Panera Bread (restaurants) started using kiosks to make it easier for customers to order. I remember my first experience. There was an employee teaching customers how to use the system. And they rewarded me with a free cup of coffee. And I’ve been using their self-ordering system ever since.

Richard Mader
Guest

Scan & Go at Sam’s is a great application. It works in this retail environment as the customer bags their purchases and security is a personal door check. The limitation is that it cannot do self scanning on liquor and other products specified by various levels of government.

A more complete self-scan applications if FutureProof Retail. This work in traditional retail checkout processes, with a BIG focus on loss prevention. One FPR app on a consumer’s phone serves multiple retailers.

Self-scanning is great, but retailers must modify checkout standards and processes to make it work for consumers.

John Karolefski
BrainTrust

Like self-checkout terminals, this “innovation” benefits retailers more than customers by reducing labor costs. I may be wrong (won’t be the first time), but Walmart’s test a few years ago didn’t catch on, and I don’t think this one will either.

Has anyone asked customers if they want this innovation that lets them scan and bag their own groceries while shopping? Why not give them a time card and union card at the same time?

The only reason for eventual success is generational. Millennials and the generation behind them like all the new digital gizmos. But I wonder if mom wants to scan and bag if she has a few “active” urchins in tow.

Richard Mader
Guest

Scan and Go is a great app; I use it every time I shop. It works well in Sam’s because security is a person at the exit, and customers bag their purchases. The only limitation is government not allowing self checkout on some items like liquor and tobacco.

A more complete consumer shop and pay application is Future Proof Retail, with a major focus on LP and one app works across multiple retailers.

Consumer shop and pay applications will have a high level of consumer adoption when:

  1. Retailer modify checkout processes for this new way of shopping;
  2. Traditional POS hardware providers, who will lose a lot of revenue, surrender to consumers.

Of course the huge hardware $ saving is why retailers continue looking for the “best” mobile shop and pay application.

Mohamed Amer
BrainTrust
Mohamed Amer
Independent Board Member, Investor and Startup Advisor
2 years 10 months ago
Good move by Walmart and points to one of the major changes we’ll see in US retailing over the next two years. Retail checkout lines are a notorious detractor to the ownership experience. In grocery segment and big box formats this is acute. So anytime you can eliminate, or greatly reduce, the effort and time associated in that final step (the last one the customer remembers before leaving the store) the better your brand will benefit and earn more repeat trips, all else being equal. When it comes to technology, timing is critical and the speed by which consumer-level technology is being adopted portends well to future in-store retailing initiatives. Intuitive and ease of use are a must as well as the store’s network speed. Each store chain will need to understand their customer demographics, shopping behavior to assess what levels of adoption to expect. These will vary from type and range of assortment to customer age groups and store location (urban v. suburban). This makes it more difficult to make generalizations from a one… Read more »
James Tenser
BrainTrust

I view Scan & Go version 2 as another bridge technology that will enable Walmart Labs to study how shoppers interact with mobile self-checkout and design newer, better mechanisms.

I’m not a big fan of retailer-specific mobile apps. They are a nuisance for shoppers much of the time. It’s still early in the game, however and we may anticipate some convergence between branded retail apps and mobile payment systems that could lead to more useful solutions that work across retail environments.

That would put another spin on “unified commerce.” Due to their immense scale, both Walmart and Amazon have potential to become major providers of self-checkout solutions that work everywhere.

Mark Price
BrainTrust
Mark Price
Managing Partner, Smart Data Solutions, ThreeBridge
2 years 10 months ago

While the Walmart shopper has a high penetration of smartphones (as do most customer segments these days), I am not sure that their heavy customer fits the “early adopter” psychographic necessary to pioneer new technology. Just like Walmart’s difficult initial forays into e-commerce, their customer base tends to be late adopters. As a result, Walmart would be better advised to improve the store experience and hold off on new technologies until they are widely accepted.

Lee Kent
BrainTrust

The Amazon Go concept has better legs on many levels, and one of them is the merchandise. It is small, take away food. Most folks who shop Walmart are there to buy the weekly goods including many bulk items. I see this as a big deterrent from anything self-service. I would also think Walmart would be concerned about missed items when the customer has to find the bar code and scan them. Love the idea, but I think it needs more of a niche market to start.

But that’s just my 2 cents.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

I think it’s more “what factors will continue to prevent this idea from working?” Customer confusion, incompetence and indifference and a massive potential for shrinkage. The first set might — might — disappear gradually with use, but I don’t see the latter ever going away.

Min-Jee Hwang
Guest

Given recent discussion over the current state of retail industry and its need to evolve, I believe Walmart is on the right track by actively pursuing the next trend. In comparison to Amazon Go’s method of checkout, having the customer scan every individual item is a lot less convenient and intuitive, however. Amazon’s method is technologically more advanced and requires very little change in routine for the consumer.

Both solutions face huge loss prevention issues that have to be addressed before they can be released. Neither is the final solution that the industry is looking for to revitalize the shopping experience, but it certainly is on the right path for change.

Dave Nixon
BrainTrust
Dave Nixon
Data Analytics Solutions Executive, Teradata
2 years 10 months ago

We are getting closer to adoption of this type of disruptive technology as the older generations that struggle with an app experience, heads off to the traditional self-checkout or checkout, and the younger generations embrace it. The Millennials will expect this type of frictionless experience as they start to spend their money, en masse. Gen Z does not have to get over the learning curve as other generations do, as the buying power shifts and that will lead to more adoption for retailers who innovate in this area.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"The world is moving in this direction and sometimes technology is ahead of customers, but not for long."
"As customer-centric options continue to flourish in the market, it will be increasingly difficult for alternative approaches to compete."
"Good move by Walmart and points to one of the major changes we’ll see in US retailing over the next two years."

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