AutoID & Data Capture Blog

Walmart Could Bring Self-Scanning to the Mainstream

Self-scanning adoption remains very low among US merchants, but Walmart could singlehandedly change that in the near term. The retailing giant recently announced it is currently testing its own self-scanning app, called “Scan and Go,” exclusively among employees at one of its Arkansas stores.

Self-scanning solutions, which are comprised of a barcode-reading app deployed either on a dedicated store-owned Personal Shopping device (e.g., Motorola’s MC 17, Datalogic’s Joya) or a customer’s personal smartphone, enable shoppers to scan and bag items in-aisle rather than do so en-masse at the checkout lane. Self-scanning has benefits for both merchants and consumers.

Merchant benefits include:

  • Insight into customer purchasing behavior
  • Visibility into store utilization/traffic patterns
  • Opportunity to influence shoppers at the point of decision via targeted offers
  • Larger average basket sizes (resulting, in part, from the above point)

Consumers enjoy:

  • Faster check-out
  • Receiving personalized/targeted offers (based on purchase history)
  • The ability to monitor spending in real-time as they shop

But, despite these benefits, self-scanning solutions generally have been challenged to gain adoption within the US. Other than a couple of notable exceptions—for example, Stop & Shop and Giant supermarkets (both subsidiaries of the Dutch retailing group Ahold), there are few merchants in the US that have invested heavily in self-scanning technology.

Walmart, with over 600 US store locations, could change that dynamic quickly and decisively if its pilot goes well. VDC believes it is unlikely that the retailer will move from its current, highly-restricted pilot test directly to a large-scale rollout, but if this early self-scanning experiment is well-received, it is reasonable to expect Walmart could take steps towards a moderate- to large-scale deployment in the next 12-18 months. Even if Walmart only deployed the app at select store locations, it would provide a material lift to the US self-scanning market—and could have a greater longer-term impact if other merchants follow suit.

Assuming Walmart fully embraces self-scanning, VDC believes the Company ultimately will integrate its “Scan and Go” self-scanning app with the recently announced Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) mobile wallet initiative, created by a consortium of merchants, among which Walmart is a founding member. Whereas the MCX m.wallet will operate across multiple retailers, any integration of the “Scan and Go” app and m.wallet would need to maintain a certain degree of separation between the two.  But, to provide consumers with the most convenient shopping experience possible, we think some level of interoperability between self-scanning and the MCX m.wallet will be inevitable.


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