Test, learn, fail and try again and again has been the Walmart way for decades so it comes as no surprise that the retailer is once again testing a new iteration of its Scan & Go shopping service in a select number of stores including the supercenter located at Pleasant Grove in Rogers.
“We can’t say how many stores are testing it this time, but it is underway in Rogers and it’s part of Wal-Mart’s efforts to ensure its stores are fast, clean and friendly,” said John Forrest Ales, corporate spokesman for Wal-Mart.
The previous forms of Scan & Go required consumers to download the Walmart application and use their iPhones as the scanning device. That method was tested in roughly 300 stores between 2012 and early 2014 before the retailer pulled the service. Since that time Walmart put it more self checkout stations and began looking at ways it could improve the Scan & Go offering at a future date.
Former Walmart.com executive Gibu Thomas told the media in June 2014 that the reviews on Scan & Go had been mixed, but some of the lessons the retailer gleaned from the prior tests was that customers liked the process of scanning items to keep a close tally on their overall spending.
Shoppers also liked that they could price check against other retailers using the Scan & Go app, but the downside was it was only available for iPhone users and store personnel were not trained to help the customers when problems arose. Other complaints about the service was there were no signs in the store to offer directions or problem solving issues from those early users.
Thomas said Savings Catcher and e-receipts were two ideas that came out of the Scan & Go tests. The two services have been built into the expanded Walmart app which also allows for gift registry and pharmacy refills. Retail industry watchers have applauded Wal-Mart for testing Scan & Go in the past because using technology to speed up and improve customer service is a step in the right direction as the retailer struggles in those store metrics, according to several marketing surveys published annually.
Faster checkouts have been described as the holy grail for many retailers. Under the new management of Walmart U.S. CEO Greg Foran, attention to store performance and customer service have been at the forefront of his urgent agenda.
SCAN & GO, PART II
This new version of Scan & Go uses a scanning device provided by the store. The kiosk is located in front of the store inside the double doors and near the self check-out corral. A shopper wishing to use the Scan & Go service just presses the screen on the kiosk and one of the handheld scanners below will light up with the works “OK.” The shopper then picks up that scanner and begins their shopping trip.
The City Wire tested this new service in the Rogers store on Monday (Oct. 5). First going to the fresh produce section, we selected a red onion and tomato but could not figure out to scan these items that don’t carry bar codes. We asked a local produce worker and he directed us to a Scan & Go scale/ scanner located in the department. The shopper looks up the product on the computer screen, the items are weighed and the shopper is prompted to print out a sticker that can placed on the item and scanned by the handheld device.
“This is the best thing Wal-Mart has ever done,” said one local shopper using the scale from her seated position in a wheeled scooter cart. “The only complaint I have is that clearance merchandise is scanned in at the original prices. That price adjustment has to be made at the checkout station. I just keep those items separate and out of the bag. It’s not that big a deal,” she added.
The City Wire kept shopping from a short list and scanned all the other items without incident, adding each item to the bags in the cart after they were scanned. The scanning device keeps an ongoing tally of the items, without tax.
The store in Rogers has two registers with overhead and floor signage that direct Scan & Go shoppers to a self check register. A store worker came over to the register and explained how the payment process works.
She said if all the items scanned correctly, all a shopper must do is touch the screen at the register and then point to the handheld scanner to the reader and all the items will be transferred into the register. Tax is added and then the shopper selects the payment type and completes the transaction.
The store worker took the handheld scanner wand back to the kiosk at the front of store. She said any self-check register that has the green Scan & Go tag can be used to complete the process, and a customer does not to wait in line in the two designated Scan & Go registers if they are being used.
Walmart is the not only retailer using Scan & Go technology. Stop & Shop, a grocery chain in the Northeast has tested their version called “Scan It” using handheld devices provided by the stores since 2007. Catalina Marketing reported that while 71% of Stop and Shop consumers found the devices helpful, only 15% of their customer use them regularly.
Ales said Wal-Mart is committed to giving shoppers more choices around convenience and Scan & Go is just one of the tests the retailer is committed to trying in this area.
This ability to test and learn and retest as needed is essential to Wal-Mart getting it right for the long-term, according to retail expert Carol Spieckerman, CEO of Spieckerman Retail. She applauds Wal-Mart’s efforts to use technology and leverage the talent it has accumulated in its @WalmartLabs team to find new ways to engage shoppers.
"Walmart gets it that retail is about providing options rather than attempting to steer customers into a couple of solutions. Walmart is determined to grab fill-in trips and to ensure that shoppers view its stores as a convenient, time-saving option. At the same time, the more checkout options that Walmart offers, the less chance of customers having to wait in long check-out lines and corresponding risk of customers bailing out," she said.
No doubt Walmart is armed with new insights that warrant having another go at Scan & Go, according to Spieckerman.
“Not all consumers want to be early adopters of new technology, but there are plenty who do. … Look for retailers to continue testing this concept until an acceptable outcome is reached,” said Max Goldberg, in mid 2014 when Wal-Mart canned its previous version of Scan & Go.
Raymond Jones, managing director of Dechert-Hampe & Co., said his firm has conducted research on self-check options including Scan & Go type of transactions at retailers.
“Shoppers often require ‘training’ on these systems to become comfortable. The self-checkouts have been around for a number of years and now represent about 40% of transactions where available,” Jones said. “It is important to note that no single checkout system will be favored by all shoppers for all shopping occasions. Customer satisfaction is maximized when each shopper can complete the checkout process in the manner they prefer.”
That is precisely what Wal-Mart is hoping to do with more self-check registers going into supercenters that can be also be transformed to a manned checkout. The retailer is also testing a new high velocity check out for full baskets. This check-out is marked “full basket” and has three checkers manning it with multiple belts to faster accommodate those shoppers with full carts.
Store No. 5260 in Rogers has one of the new high velocity registers as part of the retailer’s test announced recently by Mark Ibbottson, senior vice president of Walmart U.S. Central.
Ales said Wal-Mart is hoping to get as much feedback as possible on the tests and new service offerings in the Rogers supercenter and in other stores across the country.