* Test in one store near company headquarters
* Speeding up checkout could save millions of dollars
* Streamlining checkout is an industry goal -consultant
By Jessica Wohl
Aug 31 Wal-Mart Stores Inc is testing a
system that would allow shoppers to scan items using their
iPhones and then pay at a self-checkout counter, a move that
could trim checkout times and slash costs for retailers.
If the "Scan & Go" test by the world's largest retailer is
successful, it has the potential to change the way people shop
and pay, making the process more personal and potentially
Earlier this week, Walmart invited employees with Apple Inc
iPhones to participate in a test at a Walmart
supercenter in Rogers, Arkansas, near the company's
headquarters, according to a form on the Survey Monkey website.
"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, who said he had not seen
Wal-Mart's test. "With smartphones and improved technology we're
only going to see more of this."
The test comes months after Wal-Mart said that it would add
more self-checkout lanes at its Walmart and Sam's Club stores as
it continues to look for ways to lower costs and prices for its
Pushing more shoppers to scan their own items and make
payments without the help of a cashier could save Wal-Mart
millions of dollars, Chief Financial Officer Charles Holley said
on March 7. The company spends about $12 million in cashier
wages every second at its Walmart U.S. stores.
Shoppers often complain on Twitter and in other forums that
it takes too long 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
checkout 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 Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar.
Walmart's iPhone app already includes functions such as
letting shoppers create lists and seeing which items are in
The test comes as retailers and restaurants are trying to
figure out ways to speed up the checkout process by letting
customers pay with a tap of their smartphones.
In the Walmart iPhone scanning test, shoppers can scan
products with their phone and put them in bags while they shop,
and then pay at a self-checkout counter.
The test does not allow users to pay on their phone. The app
transfers the scanned items to the self-checkout kiosk and then
shoppers complete the transaction using the normal self-checkout
Walmart declined to give details on where the test might
lead, but it could conceivably allow for scanning on other smart
phones and be paired with mobile payment.
Wal-Mart earlier this month said it was joining with other
retailers to develop a mobile payment network, a retailer-led
initiative that would match similar services by Google Inc
and eBay Inc, among others.
While self-checkout aisles are common at many stores, the
ability to scan items with one's mobile phone while shopping is
not a typical process. 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.
"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
Wal-Mart's test appears to be limited to one store, but it
appears that the company sought out participants beyond its
staff for its study. The company asked employees to reach out to
friends and family in its search for participants, according to
a copy of an email sent by the company's @WalmartLabs team and
obtained by Reuters. A company spokesman would not verify this
on Friday afternoon.
Wal-Mart offered participants in one-hour sessions $100 for
their time and a $25 gift card to use in the store for
purchases, according to the form on the Survey Monkey website.
Wal-Mart shares closed up 35 cents at $72.60 on Friday on
the New York Stock Exchange.