Keeping the Official Merchant Services blogs’ focus in the technology and mobile realm, today we take a look at the newest tech to be utilized by the retail giant Wal-Mart, which could potentially make the process of checking out more personal and faster.
Last week, Wal-Mart initiated testing of its new “Scan & Go” iPhone app in a Rogers, Arkansas supercenter near the company’s corporate headquarters. Employees who had Apple Inc. iPhones were among the first to be able to test out the new app and it’s features in store. The app allows customers to scan products as they shop and put them in bags in their carts. When it comes time to check out, the app transfers the scanned items to the self-checkout kiosk and the customer pays with conventional means (cash, check, or credit card).
The app does not allow users to pay on their phones yet. However, we recently reported here that Wal-Mart had joined forces with other large retailers to begin creating a retailer-focused mobile wallet app called Merchant Customer Exchange, or MCX. I expect to see some sort of integration between the “Scan & Go” app and the finished MCX product after it is unveiled.
The new system intends to skirt long lines at the retailers’ checkout counters, a widely held complaint of Wal-Mart shoppers. Customers have even taken to Twitter to vent frustrations at times. The push to eliminate the need for cashiers and baggers could save Wal-Mart millions of dollars, said Chief Financial Officer Charles Holley. The company spends about $12 million dollars in cashier wages every second at its U.S. Wal-Mart stores.
Wal-Mart’s iPhone app already includes functions such as letting shoppers create lists and seeing which items are in stock. Spokesman David Tovar said of the program, “We’re continually testing new and innovative ways to serve customers and enhance the shopping experience in our stores.”
This test comes as many retailers attempt new ways to speed up the checkout process and become innovators. Wal-Mart declined to give details on where the test might lead, but it doesn’t seem a far leap to other mobile phone platforms (Android and Blackberry) as well as mobile payment options in the future.