Walmart, Sam's Sharpen Mobile, Digital Edge

As it gears up for its annual shareholders meeting, it looks like Walmart is keen to let the world know it’s upping its tech edge. It plans to expand its Walmart Savings Catcher, a cost comparison tool now in test markets, nationally, and add it to its mobile app. And its Sam’s Club division is unveiling an enhanced Sam’s Club MasterCard, making it the mass retailer to actively implement chip-enabled technology. 

Savings Catcher, built on proprietary technology, allows shoppers to enter their receipt number. It then searches other stores’ ads, giving Walmart customers an eGift card for the difference, if a competitor’s offering is lower than the price they paid at Walmart. The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailing giant says the technology compares about 80,000 grocery and consumables purchases from such chains as Aldi, Harris-Teeter, Target, Walgreens and HEB. And in the months ahead, it plans to add produce and general merchandise.

Since launching the technology in seven test markets this spring, it says it has processed almost 1 million receipts. The tool ranks first on the retailer’s list of concepts tested to date.

“Customers are savvier than ever when it comes to finding the best deals – they are using technology to do their research and spending hours clipping coupons,” says CMO Duncan MacNaughton, in the release. “We knew there had to be an easier way.” By enabling it on its mobile app as well, the company says it hopes to bring even greater price transparency.

The company also says that in the “near future,” it intends to offer eReceipts and the option to instantly load purchases into the tool, to automatically find lowest prices. The combination of Savings Catcher and eReceipts “will lead to further innovations like eCoupons 

At Sam’s Club, the company is introducing an aggressive credit card cash-back program, letting consumers earn 5% back on fuel, 3% on dining and travel, and 1% on all other purchases, earning up to $5,000 annually. Calling it the most competitive credit-reward offer in the club category, it all comes with chip-enabled technology, offering enhanced security from fraudulent activity.

“MasterCard has taken a strong stance on the need for the U.S. market to make the transition to chip-enabled credit cards for the benefit of cardholders and merchants alike,” says a MasterCard executive in the release. “This move by Sam’s Club makes them a trailblazer in getting chip cards in the hands of businesses and consumers, and leading the push toward a safer and more secure customer experience. This will no doubt help drive chip-enabled technology forward here in the U.S. as it gains more traction.”

Meanwhile, the company is the target of a growing protest, organizing demonstrations of Walmart moms in Bentonville and stores around the country to call attention to what they describe as Walmart’s illegal labor practices.

“Walmart spends billions to keep its shareholders happy, but pays workers so little they can’t afford to eat,” say event organizers, citing a new report from Demos, a public policy research firm. “In 2013, for example, Walmart spent $6.6 billion on stock repurchases, while 825,000 of its employees earned less than $25,000.”

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