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Wal-Mart Looking to Speed Checkout with Smartphones

As one might see by walking down the street, smartphones are everywhere these days. And to satisfy consumer appetite for the latest and greatest, phone manufacturers in conjunction with application developers are working to offer better designs, performance, features and, of course, functionality. Mobile payment is one of the latest popular functionalities. Though not available in every shop and not present in every phone yet, the ability to pay with a mobile device is spreading rapidly and may just be poised to become “the next big thing.”

Though there are various companies offering electronic payment hardware (e.g. Square) or service (e.g. PayPal) to the mass market, some retailers and restaurants are working on their own ways to improve the shopping experience for customers by joining the growing mobile payment trend.

Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, recently conducted a trial run for its own in-store shopping application. In an attempt to reduce costs for themselves and prices for shoppers (by needing fewer cashiers) as well as improving the customer experience (by providing shorter checkout times), the company has decided to develop and test a smartphone application that will enable shoppers to scan the products they want to buy, create shopping lists and check which items are in stock. When customers are ready to check out, the smartphone directly transfers the purchase information to the self-checkout counter, speeding the payment process. The iPhone app, which has only been tested at one point of sale so far, does not allow shoppers to pay directly with their phones yet. However, it definitely makes the checkout process more personal and potentially faster.

Though the idea of self-scanning is not entirely new, this initiative combines personal smartphones and self-checkout which might increase the involvement and satisfaction of shoppers. If this test run generates positive feedback, we might just see this application making its way to all our smartphones and every major Wal-Mart outlet.

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