Walmart U.S. CEO Greg Foran recently said the retailer would unveil new convenience options with its mobile app. And so they have. The retailer Tuesday (Feb. 28) announced its “express lanes” option that allows shoppers to skip service lines at the pharmacy and the money transfer desk.
The “express lane” option added to the retailer’s mobile app is geared toward helping customers with convenience. The retailer noted in a blog post it will roll out the function to customers in March in select markets and by the Fall it’s expected to be in all U.S. stores.
“These capabilities are the latest example of how we’re bringing together all of the conveniences of Walmart – great stores, convenient pickup, easy checkout and a top-notch app – to deliver one seamless shopping experience for customers,” said Daniel Eckert, senior vice president, Walmart Services. “We’re delivering a new and better experience in areas of our business that are essential for busy families. By making them faster and easier, we’re living up to our promise – to save customers money and time.”
The new app feature allows shoppers to refill prescriptions and skip the line at the pharmacy pickup once the customer has set up the Walmart Pay option on their mobile device. After a one-time setup on the app, customers can refill prescriptions, track order status and view pricing and pickup details using their mobile device.
Once the refill order has been placed, consumers can use the “express lane” option for easy pickup. It then takes three more steps to complete the transaction, including entering a PIN.
“What our Pharmacy business is likely most well-known for is our $4 prescription program that has saved our customers nearly $5 billion,” said Paul Beahm, senior vice president, Walmart Health and Wellness Operations. “Starting today, we’ll be known for saving them more than just money. By developing and combining the best of our app with a service that our customers depend on daily, we’re driving change that makes living better easier.”
The Walmart pharmacy has allowed shoppers to order prescription refills using the function on the retailer’s mobile app or by merely calling in the refill to a dedicated phone line and then selecting a pickup time. This new feature is geared to build on that by reducing the time it takes to retrieve and pay for the prescription. It remains to be seen if customers will use it, and a store employee still has to deliver the prescription to the customer. For instance the pickup option for general merchandise orders online is easier at some stores with a kiosk at the front, or even a large locker such as in Walmart Store No. 1 in Rogers. At the supercenter in Jane, Mo., customers go the back of the store to get their online orders and often wait for an employee to be dispatched to the desk.
REDUCING SHOPPING ‘FRICTION’
But offering customers more streamlined service options is seen as a positive move by retail watchers. Using the service also requires shoppers be logged into their Walmart.com account and Walmart Pay which gives the retailer more insights into what shoppers are buying and the timeliness of those purchases.
Clint Lazenby, a supplier consultant in Bentonville and founder of #OnShelf, said Walmart understands saving time, not just money, is a huge value for their shoppers.
“It is a lesson they seem to have internalized. This initiative appears to be focused on reducing shopping/transaction friction in two of their most strategic categories, pharmacy and money services,” Lazenby said. “Seeing Walmart recognize and develop the tools to mitigate leakage or conversion of its core shoppers in these categories is a strong sign. It shows us that Walmart has a strategic understanding of the e-commerce reality in the U.S., recognizes the need to optimize its many unique strengths to it’s advantage and has the organization ability to execute these ideas.”
Lazenby said this shouldn’t be seen as a move into Alexa/personal assistant world dominated by Google and Amazon, but he wouldn’t be surprised to see that come with other acquisitions by Wal-Mart Stores.
“I see this is really about optimizing their strengths to lower the frustration and friction for their shoppers. In my view, this is the exact right way for them to approach the future” Lazenby said.
Carol Spieckerman, owner of Bentonville-based Spieckerman Retail, also noted that time can be more important than price for some customers.
“This is a real step in the right direction. Walmart isn’t just hoping its customers will magically start engaging with its app, Walmart is offering powerful benefits (namely, time savings) to those who do. Walmart has been focusing on alleviating wait times and providing convenience across multiple customer scenarios. As time rises to the top of shoppers’ consideration criteria, in many cases surpassing price, Walmart is smart to do everything it can to tighten up timelines. From a category perspective, pharmacy and money services are great gateways that will encourage shoppers to mill around and make additional purchases while in the store,” Spieckerman told Talk Business & Politics.
MONEY TRANSFER SERVICE
The new “express lane” service is also going to be available to shoppers who use the retailer’s money transfer services. Walmart said choosing this option will eliminate the paperwork hassle for consumers transferring money in a Walmart store each month. Customers enter information securely into the Walmart app and then go to store. Customers previously needed to fill out paperwork in the store, but the new service allows this to be handled online at the consumer’s convenience.
Once in the store, customers using the mobile app function can scoot to the head of the line. In stores where there is not a money service desk, the customer service desk can handle the transaction. expedite the transaction in three steps.