User Review: Walmart shopping assistant app isn’t instinctive

by Kim Souza (ksouza@talkbusiness.net) 554 views 

(photo courtesy of Walmart Inc.)

Walmart’s effort to tweak its mobile app is noteworthy given the retailer’s push to grow its evolving ecosystem. However, the mobile app’s store assistant function activated when a shopper enters a store was clunky and non-instinctive during a recent test.

Recent modifications to the mobile app include the store assistant, list function, store maps and navigation, and additional information about the services a particular store offers. Talk Business & Politics recently used the in-store mode and found the search function for locating particular items in the large supercenter fairly easy to use.

One caveat is users have to be sure they are searching in-store and not Walmart.com which is a default option. When searching for shoe polish the Walmart.com products came up first. When looking more closely at the app, the in-store locater had to be highlighted. Once that was done, the search moved to the physical store map. The aisle number shows up with the products along with the price. The user can also click to get additional information on the product and if they want to add it to their shopping list, that’s done with a click.

Aisles in stores with this navigation function activated are numbered for easy identification. For a routine grocery shopping trip using the store assistant took more time than without it. However, if there is a need for a random purchase like matches, the navigation map could help the shopper search all the areas where matches are sold.

One item, no longer found in stores is the drink mix for Arizona Green Tea-Honey and Ginseng. A search for the product in-store showed the canned and bottled varieties of the drink only and where they could be located. When switching to the Walmart.com search the product was found and could be added to the online cart for store pickup in 2-days.

The map navigation system worked well as long as the item searched was in the store. To check for it on Walmart.com the user has to manually check that search function. The app did not instinctively look at Walmart.com. Other functions in the app included a built-in scanner allows for price checking before getting to the checkout.

The shopping list function was introduced because Walmart said 80% of shoppers make a list before going to the store. Walmart is seeking to help shoppers with their list building. Shoppers can go to the list function in the app and speak the products they want to add using their phone. When looking to add bananas to the list, they could not be found in the store search, instead, banana chips, banana bread and vanilla wafers appeared. To find bananas the user must expand the search to the full site which includes Walmart.com. Then and only then do bananas show up with the disclaimer, “In-store purchase only.”

Users have to switch back and forth from the in-store setting and Walmart.com search options too often for the app to save time. If all the items the shopper wanted to add to their cart could be spoken directly into the app and quickly added to the list then the there could be some time savings.

When trying to find Diet Dr. Pepper using the in-store search to add it to the list it could not be found unless the user defaulted to the full search option. There the items appeared and could be added to the cart and the shopping list. A search for Snicker’s candy bars also brought five different products from ice cream to baking pieces, but not the full-size candy bar packages which are sold in stores.

The in-store inventory and online inventory do not necessarily line up and yet the Walmart.com search has to be activated to find routine grocery items like bananas and diet soda. Building the list using the app was cumbersome. It was far easier to build a list using Walmart grocery pickup based on the most recent shopping trip. Walmart has shopping history for everyone who uses Walmart Pay or Savings Catcher. Yet, Walmart appears to be asking busy shoppers to start the list from scratch when using that function inside the app.

Other app functions like express prescription refill option and expedited merchandise returns could be time savers if there is adequate staff working at the pharmacy and service desk counters when the customer arrives. Walmart said customers who use the expedited systems should go to the express lanes marked in the store and if there is only one cashier they will get to the express line as soon as they finish with customer in the regular line.

Mark Matthews, vice president, Walmart U.S.services & digital acceleration, told Talk Business & Politics the express lines work much like precheck offered by TSA in airports. He said the customers don’t have to go the back of the line. Instead they go to the express line and are waited on faster. In the case of expedited returns almost all of the transaction is complete by the time the shopper gets to the store. The QR code that shows up in the Walmart app must be scanned into the reader and the item handed to the clerk. There is no exchange of money necessary, nothing to sign and no need to show identification as the method of payment is credited back.

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