Walmart reimagines in-store shopping for mobile

Discussion
Sources: Walmart
Feb 16, 2018
Tom Ryan

Many shoppers only seem to use their smartphones in-store to check prices on Amazon.com, but Walmart hopes to change that habit with a newly added store assistant feature to deliver a “totally re-imagined experience for in-store shopping.”

Walmart’s mobile app now features a product search bar, barcode scanner, customer reviews and Walmart Pay. Among the new and expanded features are:

  • Smarter, Better Lists: Shoppers can now enter a custom term like “milk” — rather than an exact item match — to check item stock at their local store. The total cart, plus tax, is now calculated as shoppers make their list, allowing them to see the cost of their basket before arriving at the store.
  • Improved Store Navigation with Store Maps: Walmart has created maps for each of its over 4,700 stores so customers will be able to find where any item is located, down to the aisle and shelf area.
  • Additional Store Information: Shoppers can check whether a store has a department like a Photo Center or Auto Care Center, see department hours and phone numbers, and secure details, such as Rug Doctor availability.

Daniel Eckert, SVP of Walmart services and digital acceleration, wrote in a blog entry that, in the future, the app may be able to drop pins on a store map tied to the location of items on a shopper’s list, enable customers to better plan in-store routes and book services, such as an oil change, in advance.

“We’re building a shopping tool unlike any other in retail — and one that makes virtually every element of the store shopping experience faster and more convenient for you,” wrote Mr. Eckert. “We’re excited about the Walmart app updates we’re launching this week, but we’re even more excited about what’s to come. With the Walmart app, shopping our stores is seamless, easy — and pretty darn cool.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you believe in the potential of retail apps to “make every element of the store shopping experience faster and more convenient” and ultimately bring more of the online shopping experience to the store? Which of Store Assistant’s new and promised features appear most beneficial to Walmart shoppers?

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Braintrust
"Walmart’s innovation train keeps on rolling!"
"For retailers that can get users to download and regularly use their apps, there is nothing but upside."
"Although I think these innovations are great, I just wonder if all the “convenience” features cut into impulse buying..."

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24 Comments on "Walmart reimagines in-store shopping for mobile"


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Art Suriano
BrainTrust

I see Walmart’s new app providing many benefits, and other retailers will follow. The app is not replacing the in-store experience it is enhancing it by providing assistance and convenience. Having a map, being able to quickly find products, read reviews and check prices all from your mobile phone lets the customer drive the in-store experience. Walmart is smart because they understand that stores are not going away but that how customers want to shop in-store is changing. They have used and continue to use technology to improve both online and in-store shopping, and they are doing it well.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust
Walmart’s innovation train keeps on rolling! Retailer mobile apps generally lack something important to every shopper — value! The value comes from making the in-store shopping experience easier and more productive. Walmart is smart to add more value to their app in a way that makes the visit to the store easy and more convenient. In many ways, the features they are adding take the place of an interaction with a store associate. Why is that helpful? It’s like adding a personal store associate in every shopper’s pocket! This doesn’t mean they can eliminate associates, but it does mean they can focus on harder issues to help customers. Coupled with Walmart Pay and the links to in-store services this is a great move by Walmart to transparently add more technology to the in-store experience while bringing added value to the shopper. I will add that a key implementation facet to this is great store Wi-Fi with plenty of network bandwidth. For other retailers to duplicate this, they’ll need to ensure they have the right technology… Read more »
Max Goldberg
Guest

Kudos to Walmart for creating an app that makes shopping their stores easier. It’s too easy to waste time in a super center looking for what you want. Other retailers should be watching this closely and should emulate Walmart’s efforts.

Chris Petersen, PhD.
BrainTrust

Walmart’s app has turned physical stores into digital hybrids. Kudos to Walmart for leveraging the power of their store base in new and exciting ways. The app has all kinds of potential for AR in shopping. Plus, the app does really useful things like “scan and go” to bypass checkout.

Just imagine the behavior tracking data as a shopper moves through the store — a data gold mine that Amazon would drool over. Walmart’s app is a whole lot cheaper, more scalable and has more customer engagement potential than Amazon Go. Way to go Walmart — we finally have some serious competition for Amazon’s relentless innovation.

Phil Masiello
BrainTrust

Retailers have been slow to implement app technology, even for delivering deals and offers. There are so many opportunities to use apps to enhance the in-store experience in addition to store navigation.

The app functionality laid out above is pretty basic. But many of the brands have apps that can better explain the product benefits or meal planning apps. Customers are looking for solutions when they shop. Apps need to provide those solutions.

Charles Dimov
Guest

Apps won’t work for most retailers. Face it, you don’t want 25 apps on your smartphone dedicated to every retailer you shop at. However, it will fly with the larger retailers — like Walmart. Walmart is an everyday destination for many different common goods. People will want this. Every time I read about Walmart, I am seeing innovation, innovation, innovation.
On a personal level, I love the navigation feature.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

Walmart is developing all good functionality here (especially for men like me, who don’t like to browse and want to get right to the product). It will be interesting to find out if some of this functionality negatively impacts impulse purchases, or if it raises the size of the cart because consumers find it easier to shop the superstore. It is always a tightrope we walk.

Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

For retailers that can get users to download and regularly use their apps, there is nothing but upside.

This is a step in the right direction for a brand that has been the Rip Van Winkle of digital retail, but I’m yawning at the features. It’s all old, old stuff that is years overdue. Give me a moment and I’ll compose a list called “101 ways to enhance mobile shopping in your store” that goes miles beyond these basic features. Sure, it’s a start, but it’s easily surpassable by any competitor that wants to make a reasonable investment.

Coupled with all the test initiatives, it might indicate Walmart has a “let’s throw it at the wall and see what sticks” attitude versus a long-tail, step-by-step customer-focused strategy based on customer data and insights.

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)
Guest

This looks very incremental, rather than like a breakthrough as an improvement to the visit experience, but the best approaches often come this way. I’ll look forward to seeing these shopper assistance tools on shopping carts or some other approach (glasses?) so patrons are not expected to look down at phones while shopping.

Adrian Weidmann
BrainTrust

To date, consistent use of in-store retailer apps has not been embraced by shoppers. The key word being — consistent. The challenge is to provide value and reward to every shopper’s journey when they are using the app during their in-store journey. Linking a shopping list with promotions, adjacencies and store location could motivate brands to pay for presenting competitive offers. This game could eventually force brands to dynamically bid on a shopper’s product choice at the shelf! A dynamic bidding war at the “first moment of truth.” That could get interesting!

I’m not convinced that interacting with a mobile app during a shopper’s in-store journey will “make every element of the store shopping experience faster and more convenient.” If anything, it will add complexity, time and frustration into the experience.

It’s all new so it’s great to experiment and learn.

Mohamed Amer
BrainTrust
Mohamed Amer
Independent Board Member, Investor and Startup Advisor
1 year 7 months ago

Walmart is doing a very good job of turning its massive physical presence into a differentiated digital experience. These moves demonstrate Walmart’s advantages are much more than low prices — they’re adding convenience as defined by today’s digital consumers and realizing that outside of the weekly repeat purchases, what happens in the store often starts online before you set foot in the store.

For me, the product location feature of the app is a great time saver and that’s as valuable as it gets. As long as Walmart continues to leverage technology to improve and redesign the business, they’ll be able to push the envelope of possibilities and raise the hurdles that others must match to compete.

Dr. Stephen Needel
BrainTrust

I’m waiting for the app to tell me an item is in stock at my Walmart as I’m staring at the empty shelf. And how many want the online experience in-store — compared to how many want a good in-store experience? I’m skeptical that this does anything for their business.

Larry Negrich
BrainTrust

Identification of the shopper via the mobile app will give Walmart the ability to accomplish all of the things outlined and the ultimate value is the ability to identify the shopper and to build unique in-store engagements to enhance each shopper’s experience. Imagine using something similar to Amazon’s “you might also be interested in” or “shoppers who purchased this also purchased” but with the shopper standing next to the item. Walmart could also offer an instant, customized promotion to the shopper, and not just discount-based.

Yes, pins and shopper paths are helpful to the shopper but the identification of the shopper gives Walmart another lever to better service the customer and to turn the in-store experience into a powerful strategic advantage.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust
Doug Garnett
President, Protonik
1 year 7 months ago

It is concerning that Walmart’s digital executive describes this app with such breathless excitement and hype. From what I can see, there is little of serious significance to be offered to consumers.

Consider routes through the store. Apps are not used by shoppers who rarely visit the store but by dedicated, regular shoppers. Those are the shoppers who are least likely to ever need a map to sort out a route for them. And if it does a “best route” fit … what are we talking about, a time savings of 30 seconds?

Perhaps this app is a nice step forward. But retailers need be cautious to avoid digital industry hype when describing journeymen apps.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
BrainTrust

The technology provides an online or mobile experience which may enhance the store experience. However, that tool is not the in-store experience. These are multi-faceted issues that require several integrated solutions. One solution does not serve all purposes.

Ken Morris
BrainTrust
Ken Morris
Retail industry thought leader
1 year 7 months ago

Mobile apps have the opportunity to improve the customer experience in unlimited ways. The challenge retailers have is to include as many valuable tools in the app as possible so that more consumers are compelled to download and use it. Consumers get app fatigue and they don’t want to sacrifice their precious screen space for an app unless they plan to use it frequently. Including things like loyalty, payments, product locators, special offers and games all help improve the success of the app.

Walmart’s new feature that will bring consumers the most value is the product locator map and it will be even better when the app plots the most efficient route through the store based on the customer’s shopping list. Whether you are a fan of Walmart or not, they are becoming one of the most innovative retailers. What’s next?

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

Does the app make certain aspects of shopping better? No question. Is that the same thing as creating, “a “totally re-imagined experience for in-store shopping?” Not hardly, unless your idea of a total experience excludes service, merchandising, store conditions, etc. I think we need to get over our tendency to see point solution technologies as digital antidotes to every retail problem. This is a great tool for doing some things, but it won’t help if stores are dirty, employees are hostile and merchandising lags behind the competition. Item location, for example, is a great feature, but customer reviews may be less so. At any rate, all that is moot if the shopping experience is so poor that customers never make it to the store in the first place.

John Karolefski
BrainTrust

Blending digital with the physical store is the new Holy Grail of retailing, and Walmart deserves a thumbs up for its new app. Will it get shoppers out of the store faster, which is what they always want? That remains to be seen. Staring at a smartphone while in the store takes time.

Mark Price
BrainTrust
Mark Price
Managing Partner, Smart Data Solutions, ThreeBridge
1 year 7 months ago

The integration of retail apps into customer experience at stores is vital to maintaining and enhancing customer engagement with the store brand. Consumers are more and more accustomed to shopping on their mobile device — using retail apps is a natural extension. Eventually, consumers should be able to check out with their phones, increasing simplicity and reducing checkout wait times dramatically.

In addition, the retail apps hold great strategic importance for retailers, since the app can share location data in the store and purchase behavior in real-time.

In the short-term, store navigation will be the greatest benefit (hopefully with real-time coupon offers), since specific customer segments struggle with finding products in larger stores.

Naomi K. Shapiro
BrainTrust

Although I think these innovations are great, I just wonder if all the “convenience” features cut into impulse buying, and what effect that will have on a store’s bottom line.

William Hogben
BrainTrust

Walmart’s mobile self scanning solution is available in more than 30 locations now, and this is the next step to rolling that out overall. When Walmart enables customers to truly check themselves out from their phones that will be a game changer — and retailers who compete with Walmart will find that their customer experience is no longer superior!

Joel Goldstein
BrainTrust

I think it’s such a small step in the direction the future is going. It’s short sighted. I can respect what they are doing with smart lists in trying to create a more loyal customer that can’t “shop around,” however, the future is not that simple. If they are to truly lead the pack, they will need to deliver the best quality products at the lowest prices that will make someone come to a store over ordering online.

In 5-10 years, Amazon will have same-day doorstep delivery across every metro, and Dollar General is racing to fill in the gaps in the middle of the country. It’s going to be a push to have Walmart pivot fast enough to keep up with the times and quickly changing retail landscape.

Allison McGuire
BrainTrust

Walmart, Target, Costco and Sam’s stores would all benefit from this type of app. I’m most excited about the store navigation feature. I often waste time trying to find an item by myself, only to eventually hunt down an associate to ask where it is. Our time is more valuable than ever, so anything that accelerates the shopping experience is a win in my opinion.

Enrique Fernandez
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

Walmart’s new app provide some tools that could be interesting for customers. One of the most beneficial features for customers can be receiving personalized promotions. Installing some iBeacons or Seeketing nodes would give Walmart information about their customers. This information includes how often customers visit Walmart, how long they stay and other data about their behavior. Having this data would enable Walmart to send personalized ads to its customers. This would be beneficial both for Walmart and its customers.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Walmart’s innovation train keeps on rolling!"
"For retailers that can get users to download and regularly use their apps, there is nothing but upside."
"Although I think these innovations are great, I just wonder if all the “convenience” features cut into impulse buying..."

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