WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
The retail wars are hotting up and innovation is still many retailers weapon of choice, but as Walmart steps up the pressure on Amazon hopefully customers should be the winners.
Following in the footsteps of its arch rival Amazon, Walmart has announced that it is testing technology that will allow customers to skip the checkout lines and pay for purchases using their smartphones.
The so-called “Scan and go” technology, which has been trialled around the world in multiple forms before without much success, sounds similar though to Amazon’s latest Amazon Go concept which it unveiled in December.
Walmart spokesmen have said that shoppers will be able to use an app to add products to a digital shopping cart, then walk out of the building with their purchases without waiting in a checkout line, and that all payments will managed through the app.
Walmart also announced it’s testing new checkout capabilities and launching a series of app updates in March, with a full roll out in the fall, that will help customers speed up their trips to the pharmacy and money services departments.
Using the new app customers will, for example, be able to refill prescriptions and skip the line when they arrive at the store to pick them up, and there will be a new “express” line at the pharmacy where customers can scan a code on their app that notifies pharmacy staff of their arrival. Then a worker will deliver their prescription to them.
Meanwhile the money services update will let customers fill out forms that they previously had to fill out in store, online, and again, like at the pharmacy, there will be an “express” lane for customers who have already filled out the paperwork so Walmart employees can quickly complete their transactions using a code on their phones.
Walmart is also going after Amazon online. The retailer just rolled out free two-day shipping on 2 million items for orders that are more than $35 to all its customers but unlike Amazon customers don’t need to enrol or become members, and some speculate that this is what’s prompted Amazon to drop their own free delivery threshold from $49 to $35.
Either way, as these two big retailers duke it out it’s more than likely we’ll see more tit for tat measures, more innovation – and more copying. And as for what happens to Walmart’s cashiers who’d have to work for a million years to earn the same amount of money Walmart’s heirs make in a year? Well, you know how that ends.