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Walmart Tests Grocery Receipt Comparison Tool

August 27, 2012

Walmart is testing a program that invites consumers to send Walmart a photo of a grocery receipt from a Walmart competitor. Within a couple of days, Walmart responds with a calculation of how much the consumer would have saved at its stores.

The "Walmart Receipt Comparison Tool" quietly went live in mid-August in Albuquerque, Chicago and Atlanta. A website set up around the effort — seeforyourself.walmart.com/receiptcomparison — states that Walmart will "soon be expanding it to other parts of the U.S."

A video as well as marketing copy on the microsite explains the steps:

  • Snap a picture of a recent receipt from the grocery store you regularly shop;
  • Upload the image of the receipt to Walmart's microsite, along with an email address;
  • Walmart's "team of price checking wizards — figuratively speaking" will process the receipt and compare the prices versus the nearest Walmart supercenter;
  • A link to the results will be emailed to the shopper within 24 to 48 hours.

The video then encourages users to share the results with friends to encourage them to try the tool themselves. Links to Facebook, Twitter and e-mail are provided. The video ends, "So now with proof in hand, you can stop driving around and checking advertising in search of good deals and enjoy Walmart's low prices every day. Upload your receipt and try it today!"

The microsite states that the receipt must be less than 7 days old for an "accurate comparison." It only compares grocery, health and wellness, beauty and consumable items. Private label items and random weight items such as produce and meat are excluded. Receipts can only be compared currently from most major grocery stores, mass merchants and drug stores, although Walmart said it is expanding the list.

According to Supermarket News, Walmart is running ads in those three cities encouraging consumers to try the tool. Gift cards valued at $10 are being offered for the first 100 shoppers each day who submit receipts through Sept. 1. Each city also includes a local "Walmart Challenge" microsite with video testimonials from local shoppers touting Walmart's low prices.

An unidentified Walmart spokesperson told couponsinthenews.com that the receipt comparison tool is "very, very, very much a test" right now. She added that it represents an extension of the retailer's five-month-old print and TV campaign that in the same vein challenges shoppers to bring their receipts into Walmart's stores to see for themselves how much money they could have saved.

FINANCIALS:     [NYSE:WMT] [ ]

Discussion Questions:

What do you think of Walmart's Receipt Comparison Tool? Do you see any ways the plan could backfire? Does Walmart face greater challenges communicating its value proposition in grocery versus other categories?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

Does Walmart face greater challenges communicating its value proposition in grocery versus other categories?

Comments:

I'll be surprised if this plan is sustainable. It requires the consumer to work...well for the possibility of $10 if they are one of the first in the day to submit their receipt. And then I can imagine the items that are not exactly the same items, but "reasonable" substitutes. Where have I seen that before?

On the other hand I thought "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" was a silly name.

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Joan Treistman, President, The Treistman Group LLC

It may be a great extension of their current campaign -- what I'm wondering about is whether they are eating up profits to pay price checkers. Also, is their core market capable of taking pictures and uploading to a website? Yes, everyone shops at Walmart, so many should be able to do so, but I'm wondering if their core can do it.

And no -- they don't face value communication issues, they face quality communication issues (produce, meat, etc.).

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Dr. Stephen Needel, Managing Partner, Advanced Simulations

Interesting gimmick. It fits with the national price comparison advertising campaign that Walmart is currently running. I'm sure a number of consumers will take advantage of the offer.

Interesting to note that the comparison does not include private label items, produce and meat, which are prevalent in most consumers' shopping carts. They also fail to include stores like Trader Joe's, where most of the items are private label.

For years grocers have touted that they have the lowest prices. WM is trying to put some teeth in that claim.

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Max Goldberg, President, Max Goldberg & Associates

I get it, crowdsourcing like Amazon to do the work brands used to do to make sure they have competitive pricing but...talk about your next shiny object.

Who has time to do this? If they do, are they Walmart's customer? Will this increase their basket share? Did many people doubt Walmart was the lowest price?

This would be a game changer if for example it were J.C. Penney, who seems to be looking for that next shiny object a lot these days.

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Bob Phibbs, President/CEO, The Retail Doctor

On the surface this process appears to be too involved for most shoppers in the long haul. Of course Walmart expects to win with these comparisons, but it is unclear how high-low deals will be handled when compared to Walmart's EDLP approach on the same items. Then there are the issues of non-compatible SKUs and brands.

I think most shoppers who would take the time to do this are already doing their own comparisons and understand how to take advantage of traditional retailer's deals, and then shop Walmart for the non-deal items on their list. They might find some value in this, but I would doubt if it result in the shopper spending more at Walmart than before.

From a shopper's perspective and as this tool evolves, I could see a price comparison function as an element of a broader shopping tool, but as a stand alone process, I am just not sure the steps involved are worth the return.

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Mark Heckman, Principal, Mark Heckman Consulting

It's a great idea, if it works. Otherwise, Walmart risks exposing its weaknesses -- not only the possibility of having higher prices, but exposing that it doesn't have the same products/inventory of dedicated grocers. It may also trigger price wars in the markets it's testing/implementing this, which in the end, has to be more survivable for Walmart than others.

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Ken Lonyai, Digital Innovation Strategist, co-founder, ScreenPlay InterActive

The success will be in the message this conveys. The conclusion the consumer will make, even if they don't send in their receipt, is that Walmart must be more competitively priced; otherwise, they would not do this.

On the Walmart side, they better be diligent in their pricing.

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Gene Detroyer, Professor, Independent

As several have indicated, I wonder how many of Walmart's target shoppers have the technology to take the photo and upload it. The again, I continue to hear that 50% of the population has a smartphone, so it may not be the stretch it first appears to be.

It does build on their current TV campaign and gives consumers some "factual" basis to believe that Walmart's grocery pricing will save them money. I see it as a way to induce trial and hopefully conversion.

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Steve Montgomery, President, b2b Solutions, LLC

I recently came across a blog that features price comparisons from the blogger who regularly shops Bottom Dollar Food. The blogger took a digital snap of the three grocery receipts of items recently purchased. Even the quart of 10W-30 motor oil was cheaper at Bottom Dollar than at the local chain auto parts store. So people out there are already making these price comparisons.

'weo'

It's not the participation rate that matters so much here. Nor even the actual outcomes -- on which Walmart will almost certainly lose at least a few. It's the message of reinforcement that the program sends to consumers -- "we BELIEVE we have lower prices everyday, and we're willing to prove it."

The potential downside is somebody getting the "man bites dog" story to the local press (i.e. Walmart loses a comparison) and the media running with it. "Walmart lies..." is not the desired outcome.

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Ben Ball, Senior Vice President, Dechert-Hampe

"Tool" is the operative word.

Walmart is depending on their customers not to execute. Face it, they couldn't handle the response. It's a matter of messaging lowest price.

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Christopher P. Ramey, President, Affluent Insights

The great price comparison leaves out the perishable stuff. Why don't they compare the meat and potatoes, as I know for certain we win every single time on every single item, but I don't have millions of dollars to fight this campaign. Nobody can win any shelf stable price war on national brands against Walmart, and they know it.

My job is to point out the differences on the rest of the products consumers buy, and make sure I do a better job at that every day, or I will cease to exist.

Bring on the bacon, and roasts, and we'll see who wins!

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Tony Orlando, Owner, Tony O's Supermarket & Catering

Even if it loses some comparisons, Walmart still has its "ad match" program as a fallback. Some have already tried to "beat the system" by submitting receipts for items they know they got for less than they would have at Walmart. In those cases, Walmart admits they were bested this time, but since they will match any local competitor's advertised prices, there's really no reason not to shop Walmart.

It's almost a win-win -- they either get to show that their prices are lower, or they get to publicize their ad match program to customers who are already engaged enough to want to go through all of this just to see what Walmart has to say.

Bill Clarke, Publisher, CouponsInTheNews.com

Walmart is working hard to increase its share of the food market, which is already quite high. This plan, whether it proves to be effective or not, appears to be part of Walmart's multi-front program to get more control of America's food/grocery business. That possibly raises the specter of a potential monoploy, which wouldn't be looked upon favorably in D.C.

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Gene Hoffman, President/CEO, Corporate Strategies International

I love it, and would hope that it morphs into a web site where you can enter your grocery list and view prices from 4 grocers in your area. I can appreciate Walmart's efforts, but I would prefer not to have to drive 15 miles past 9 grocery stores to buy groceries.

An impartial site that revealed pricing to everyone would serve both merchants and consumers best. With regard to challenges for Walmart, their value proposition isn't in much doubt. Their challenge is convenience. How much do you have to be able to save to make driving 10 extra miles to shop worthwhile?

Ed Dennis, Sales, Dennis Enterprises

Check out Tony's response. He makes good sense and speaks directly from the battlefield.

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Ed Rosenbaum, CEO, The Customer Service Rainmaker, Rainmaker Solutions

I see two clear wins here, even apart from the actual shoppers who use the service:
1) The PR around this can only be helpful for Walmart to keep its dominance in price perception;
2) It is in Walmart's best interest to encourage the idea of price comparison on real shopping behavior (not just "key items"). Even if this isn't the ultimate vehicle, pushing the idea in the marketplace is good for Walmart in the long run.

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Jonathan Marek, Senior Vice President, Applied Predictive Technologies

It's smart even if they can't prove they are lower priced. If they lose, it shows consumers Walmart is not afraid. And by not being afraid, consumers will assume that Walmart knows what they are talking about.

This is corporate trash talk, except about 95% of the time Walmart can back up their talk and walk the walk. There are stores like Crest in Oklahoma City or Woodman's in Wisconsin where Walmart is not going to look good. But those types of situations are few and far between.

David Livingston, Principal, DJL Research

IMHO, most people who shop at Walmart do so because they know the prices are low. Not sure why I would go to the trouble to send my receipt in for a possible $10 bucks. I buy staples from WM, and meats and private labels from other stores. Hmmmmm.

Lee Kent, Let's meet share and succeed in Retail, YourRetailAuthority

Walmart is doing a smart marketing thing by offering this program because just by the program's implication, the consumer gets reinforcement that Walmart's everyday low pricing must be solid. However, I don't know how this program could be executed properly since consumers might be choosing certain brands or sizes at other stores that are not carried at Walmart. Only fair and meaningful if it's apples to apples, and if the apples are of the same quality.

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David Biernbaum, Senior Marketing and Business Development Consultant, David Biernbaum Associates LLC

I must admit that watching the players in this stinking economy move aggressively for new markets and greater market share is fun to say the least. This latest move by Walmart says much about how much it has to learn about inventory with a miniscule shelf life, as in fresh foods. The transportation and distribution system it has is awesome, but not very friendly to fresh produce, refrigerated meats and dairy. A sneak peak at their shrink results, as in foretasted vs. actual, would be much fun for those with a sense of humor.

'gjarnoldjr'

What a great way for Walmart to mine data of consumer purchases made at competitors in the grocery space. Walmart will be able to gain a great deal of information about their competitors' promotions, sales, merchandising, etc. Interesting to see if the consumer gives up some amount of privacy rights to participate.

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Larry Negrich, Vice President, Marketing, nGage Labs

Wow! Great idea! Perfect for the Millennial generation. I believe that shoppers everywhere are looking at their receipts for the "savings" that their club cards yielded. This is the perfect tool to combat that.

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Liz Crawford, VP, Strategy & Insights, Match Drive

Not a bad thing to test, but clearly there are some holes in the program as it is right now, such as private label and produce gaps, accounting for coupons or fuel rewards, and even the effort required.

Price is an important criteria but just one of many. Convenience, quality, choice, brand, service, etc. are all factors that customers intelligently navigate to make their choices every day, and I don't see this having a material impact on many shoppers.

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Matthew Keylock, Senior Vice President, New Business Development and Partnerships, dunnhumbyUSA

Forget (all the work for) customers, what about all the work that will be entailed on the WM end when 15M receipts come flooding in? Presumably they already have an idea how many -- or few -- people will actually use this, and the numbers came out workable, but remember the old admonition "results may vary." I also don't see what's really in this for the consumer; they find out they saved X dollars -- or God forbid they actually lost Y dollars -- but then what?

'notcom'

There is a strong element of publicity value, obviously, in announcing this idea. However, there are a lot of "conditions" to achieve the $10 -- be first among the 100 shoppers on a day, email and reasonable quality photo capabilities, selected products and retailers, etc. For many, it's a lot of work for a possible, limited reward. The risk is that frustration on the part of shoppers in "qualifying" may be the message to social media, rather than favorable price comparisons. Interesting idea, though.

Anne Bieler, Sr. Associate, Packaging and Technology Integrated Solutions

Smart move. Anyway you look at it.

If you don't play you at least get the message, Walmart is low price and they are willing to compare to prove it.

Price match means (in the markets mentioned) they NEVER LOSE.

In the end this is a poor man's Just4U program (Safeway) which also has a price compare and match feature for advertised items (but never includes Walmart on the list.).

Mike Spindler, Managing Partner, Panther Mountain Companies, LLC

I honestly don't know how this is going to work. Moms who are buying food for a family may get a receipt that's a foot long. (Mine is.) Will Walmart's tool be able to read the tiny type?

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Cathy Hotka, Principal, Cathy Hotka & Associates

Given that Walmart is only comparing items where they have the best shot of beating the supermarket, in many cases the comparison may be favorable. However, while this might be fun to do the first time, I doubt it is sustainable over time and customers will ultimately lose interest in doing the work required. Seems to be a good PR move as it creates buzz around confidence in a low price image.

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Brian Numainville, Principal, The Retail Feedback Group

Pretty pointless exercise in my view. As has already been mentioned above, pretty much everyone already knows Walmart is cheapest on branded products -- that's why they shop there! Also, the technology is not very customer friendly -- there are far better and more immediate ways to point our favourable prices differences. But that would involve WM importing new ideas from overseas -- how likely is that?

'Spev'

The Walmart comparison tool has potential, if leveraged correctly to become the equivalent of The Pepsi Challenge, clearly indicating to consumers the potential savings benefit of shopping at Walmart, in a direct, personal and immediate format.

Walmart has consistently supported a price benefit message, and the most recent set of ads drive that even further by suggesting that consumers bring the receipts into the store. The online price comparison tool could be to Walmart a breakthrough digital approach to expand the impact of that advertising to consumers that would not normally visit a Walmart. The potential to attract new consumers makes this an unusual and innovative strategy.

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Mark Price, Managing Partner, LiftPoint Consulting, Inc.

Does the biggest grocery chain in the country really need a tool like this to stomp on the competition? What about a tool that shows the cook more interesting meals to prepare with the products Walmart sells? What about making employees lives better? Isn't there something more socially meaningful these "wizards" can be doing?

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Jerry Gelsomino, Principal, FutureBest

It's hard to get excited about Walmart having to "prove" its low prices via asking customers to send in receipts in a multi-step process. Even if there was an app or an HTML5 site to make it easier for the customer, where is the upside for anyone other than Amazon or Target? After all these years does WMT really have to prove that it is lowest cost? Do they really expect Millennials going through this process for a brand as one-dimensional as WMT?

There are much easier ways to compare prices than what WMT is offering and faster, easier ways for customers to realize value and savings.

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Phil Rubin, CEO, rDialogue

Walmart's new comparison tool rolled out in Chicago this week -- I heard a radio spot for it as I was on the way home from shopping at Meijer. So I uploaded my Meijer receipt to the Receipt Comparison Tool. When it returned the list of what I would have paid at Walmart, the tool stated that I would have saved 65% by shopping at Walmart. Unfortunately, by my calculation using the prices on the Walmart tool, I paid more than 20% LESS shopping at Meijer. They're using some very unusual math to create their comparisons. If an item is on sale "10 for $10," the tool believes EACH item on your receipt cost $10, not $1. I blogged about this experience, with my receipt and Walmart's analysis of it, here.

Jill Cataldo, President, Super-Couponing, LLC

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