Walmart Scan and Go

Want to save even more at Walmart? The company has announced it will soon be offering digital coupons – but not in the way you’re likely accustomed to them.

The news came yesterday during a media event at Walmart’s e-commerce offices in Silicon Valley, California. The digital coupons will be tied in with the new “Scan and Go” app, which Walmart began testing last year, and has recently begun introducing to more stores.

The iPhone-only app (Walmart says an Android version is coming soon) allows you to scan your own items as you shop, then pay for your entire purchase at a self-checkout station. First tested in Arkansas and Atlanta, the app soon will be available to use in more than 200 stores in Portland, Oregon; Bozeman, Montana; Wyoming, Denver, Phoenix, Omaha, Dallas, Austin, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Seattle and San Jose. Walmart plans to have the technology available in most of its more than 3,000 locations by the end of the year.

Since it was first unveiled, there’s been speculation that Scan and Go would eventually incorporate coupons, since the technology allows it (read: “Self-Scan’s Biggest Benefit: Convenience, Cost Savings or Coupons?”). The Boston-based grocery chain Stop & Shop has been offering a similar app for nearly two years now, and it incorporated coupons from the start. The “Scan It!” app “provides personalized, relevant and specific offers to shoppers,” a Stop & Shop news release from 2011 reads. “Customers can anticipate potential savings of $250-500 each year, based upon receiving 8-10 targeted coupons per shopping trip.”

Stop & Shop’s self-scan coupon offers are both location-based and personalized. The app knows where you are in the store – a handy feature of in-store apps and wireless availability that might otherwise seem a little creepy (read: “Free WiFi! But Is Your Supermarket Spying on You?”). So a coupon can pop up on your screen just as you approach an item that you might be interested in buying.

The drawback of that approach is that you can’t pre-select your own coupons based on what you want to buy. The coupons are selected for you, based largely on what the store and manufacturers would like you to buy. Strolling through the frozen food department? Maybe an ice cream coupon will tempt you to buy a treat that wasn’t on your shopping list. Buying a jar of peanut butter? Maybe a coupon for jelly will prompt you to toss that into your cart as well.

“Scan It!” is also tied to a shopper’s store loyalty card, so it can offer additional personalized coupons based on your purchase history, similar to Safeway stores’ “Just For U” program (read: “Safeway Chief Predicts End of Paper Coupons”).

Walmart has no loyalty program, though (read: “Walmart: Loyalty Cards? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Loyalty Cards!”). So, while it’s not offering many specifics about its digital coupon offers just yet, it may not be quite as personalized as “Scan It!” or “Just For U”, since Walmart simply doesn’t have the customer data that stores with loyalty programs do. Then again, Scan and Go itself would enable the company to tie purchases to individuals, so the more you use it, the more relevant your digital coupon offers might become.

Unlike “Scan It!”, Walmart says its digital coupons are likely to be more along the lines of traditional, clip-for-yourself coupons that you select before you shop. “The capabilities will allow customers to access manufacturer coupons in the Walmart iPhone app,” Walmart spokesman Ravi Jariwala tells Coupons in the News. “They’ll be able to simply tap on coupons to ‘clip’ them and add them to their virtual cart, and these coupons will be applied automatically to matching items in their next Scan & Go session at a store.”

But they’ll only be available to Scan and Go users. And the promise of digital coupon savings available only to certain shoppers could encourage more people to give the app a try. That, in turn, could help to address some of the biggest complaints about Walmart, highlighted just the other day (read: “Long Lines, Empty Shelves: Is Shopping at Walmart That Unpleasant?”). More Scan and Go users could reduce wait times at regular checkouts, and could free up more employees to help restock empty shelves.

And if Walmart can get you to buy more, while also getting you to do all the work of scanning your own items – the biggest savings from digital coupons could ultimately be enjoyed by Walmart itself.

Image source: Walmart.com


3 Comments

  1. If Walmart randomly checks baskets, they will get in trouble for “profiling”. This is a PR nightmare waiting to happen.

  2. I am curious as to how this works. Who makes sure that a customer has scanned everything in his basket? And how do they do so? What’s to keep a customer from scanning less expensive versions of each item in his cart? If someone must manually verify each item, then does it really save the store any money?

    • All good questions. The terms of service say “Walmart or its affiliates may review the products in your possession and/or your receipt at any time and request that any products be re-scanned or product or order price be re-calculated.” In other words, random checks – though no one knows exactly how much checking they’ll actually do.

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