If time is money, the long lines retail consumers face during holiday season are like getting socked with annoying taxes, surcharges and fees on top of an already pricey cable bill. Walmart yesterday disclosed a few ways it intends to speed things along.
“The retail giant announced Tuesday a host of improvements intended to streamline how its customers shop over the busy holidays, including Check Out With Me, a service that will place Walmart workers with handheld scanners in the busiest areas of its stores, such as the garden center and electronics, so customers can grab a big item and pay for it right there, skipping the regular checkout lines,” Mike Murphy reports for MarketWatch.
“The world's largest retailer first tested the service in its Lawn & Garden Centers in more than 350 stores this past fall, which fared well, according to Steve Bratspies, the company's chief merchandising officer in the U.S.,” the AP’s Anne D’Innocenzio reports for ABCNews. “The Bentonville, Arkansas retailer will also have digital store maps on the Walmart app to help customers find items more quickly,” she adds.
Walmart also took the wraps off a plan to test going cashier-less at its new, smaller Sam’s Club Now store that will be opening soon in the Dallas area.
“Instead of cashiers, the store is staffed with ‘member hosts,’ who will act more like concierges, the company says. And instead of scanning items at a point-of-sale cashier stand, customers will use a specialized Sam’s Club Now mobile app,” reports Sarah Perez for TechCrunch.
“The app leverages Sam’s Club existing ‘Scan & Go’ technology, which is used today across its retail locations to help speed up checkout. With the current Scan & Go mobile app, shoppers can opt to scan items as they place them in their cart, then pay right on their phone. At Sam’s Club Now, however, the use of mobile scan-and-pay is required, not optional,” Perez continues.
As for the member hosts, “we’ll empower them with new technology that will allow them to serve members better and faster. We’ve known for a long time our associates make the difference, and that won’t change just because shopping preferences evolve,” Jamie Iannone, the CEO of SamsClub.com, writes in a blog post. “And shopping preferences are evolving. Since launching our Scan & Go app two years ago, we’ve seen its popularity continue to increase. More than 90% of members who try Scan & Go use it again on their next trip, and regular use is up 40% this year,” he continues.
Walmart is also improving its online commerce capabilities in order to better compete with Amazon and other digital rivals (whoever they might think they are).
“Walmart has made a slew of investments to beef up its website this year, including adding new brands like those sold by Lord & Taylor and Moosejaw. The company said this holiday season it will have its ‘broadest assortment ever’ of merchandise for sale both in stores and online. Without Toys R Us on the scene, it’s planning to have 30% new toys for sale in stores, and 40% more toys available on walmart.com," writes CNBC’s Lauren Thomas.
“Still, Cowen & Co. analyst Oliver Chen said Walmart’s assortment continues to lag that of Amazon, according to a research note Sunday. Cowen found Walmart carries a little more than half of the top 1 million best-selling items on Amazon. Chen said Walmart is ‘missing many important brands and breadth and depth’ in certain categories,” Thomas adds.
The Cowen report was based on based on a meeting with Jet.com founder Marc Lore, who became Walmart’s e-commerce president and CEO when the site was sold to the retailer two years ago.
“The report said that while the company ‘has acquired a handful of successful
digitally native retailers,’ it’s Lore's view that Walmart ‘will need to acquire at least 40-50 brands that resonate with millennials to help lift the margins in the
long-tail,’” Áine Cain reports for Business Insider, which has published Cowen’s full research note here.
“Lore’s comments to Cowen mirror his statements at an October 16 meeting with investors. At the meeting, Lore said that in the future, major retailers will largely sell similar products, so differentiation will be the key to success,” Cain continues.
“How do you actually create a reason for customers to shop on your website versus your competition?” Lore said at the meeting with investors, Cain reports. “And I think this is one way. This is one big way, having proprietary content. It’s not going to be just four brands aren't going to do it, but imagine 40. So the idea is over a long period of time to continue to incubate and buy and build. So we have a portfolio of brands and unique content.”
Along these lines, see Sarah Mahoney’s story in Marketing Daily this morning about Blue Apron’s plan to sell four varieties of meal kits to New Yorkers through the Jet.com website that will be delivered through Jet’s City Grocery program.
Getting back to time is money, think of all that time you won't spend on line at the local ShopRite.