Wal-Mart Tests IPhone Check Out

Wal-Mart is testing the future of check-outs with what is called the “Scan & Go” service.  According to Reuters, the Rogers, Arkansas Wal-Mart store has tested allowing customers to scan items with their iphones as they shop, and proceed to a self checkout counter to complete the purchase transaction.  The test case is being used to gather feedback on the process.

The exact details of the test have not been completely confirmed.  It appears that the shoppers were able to transfer the list of items to be purchased to a kiosk for check out, instead of having to individually scan every item for purchase, such as is currently done in most self check out aisles in the country.

This is not the only mobile payment option currently under development and testing.  Some may remember the hype surrounding Google’s attempt at mobile checkout technology, called Google Checkout.  The technology has been bogged down with all kinds of delays and disagreements, such as when American Express said earlier this year that they did not participate in the Google Checkout service.  The only problem?  Google had announced a couple of days earlier that the platform supported all major credit card carriers, including Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express.  The company denied that they had ever participated in Google Checkout.

Perhaps this is why Wal-Mart has decided to try their hand at the mobile checkout business.  According to published reports, the company is not sitting around and waiting on Google.  Wal-Mart and other retailers are reportedly getting together and developing their own mobile payment  system.  This could be really big news if the experiment goes well, but it is anything but a done deal.  Retailers have tried before to make the customer more integral in the checkout, but it has never quite worked out.  But imagine, the test in Arkansas seems to be just the first salvo in what could be a showdown between Google and Wal-Mart.  Who would have thunk?

It is easy to imagine why a company such as Wal-Mart would want to automate the checkout process.  Besides the obvious savings in labor costs, the company could also better use the employees which are freed up from check-out duties.  Imagine the competitive advantage the company would have over its competitors, such as Target, during the holiday rush if Wal-Mart’s lines move much more quickly and smoothly, with the customer essentially getting in line to pay, but not to scan each item as in the current checkout situation.

The smart phone app for checkout could also be integrated into Wal-Mart’s existing app – which allows the customer to create lists and check on the current stock of merchandise.  However, one would advised not to get too giddy.  Think about how well the current self checkout lines work.  But, if all goes well, this test could lead to much more efficient checkout lines in the future.  It may just take Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, to bring this technology to fruition.

Reports indicate that shoppers are being compensated with $100 and a $25 gift card for taking part in the experiment.

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