A few weeks ago, we ran a blog that examined how long it would take for consumers to be able to use their smartphones to pay for things in retail outlets. The problem, as we see it, is that an awful lot of merchants, pay services, telecommunications services, and consumers all have to be on the same page before the smartphone will forever replace the wallet. We still believe this is true, but given Walmart’s announcement last week that it plans to expand its “Scan & Go” program to 200 of its stores, it’s possible that time might arrive sooner rather than later.
The way it works is this: If you have the Walmart app on your smartphone and walk into a participating location, you set the app to enter “store mode” and scan your purchases as you put them in your shopping cart. When you’re finished, you go to the checkout line where the app activates your phone’s camera to display a QR code, after which you settle up.
There are a great many benefits to such a system: you’ll keep a running tally of your costs, you won’t have to wait (hopefully) in a checkout line, and best of all, you won’t have to dilly-dally with the insufferable self-service checkout hardware that insists you remove your purchase from the scanning area and start again.
To be fair, the Scan & Go program will only work at Walmart, so the question of universality remains unanswered. Still, it’s not difficult to imagine that consumers would be more inclined to use such a service at stores they frequent often. If you’re anything like us, you’re probably carrying a grocery store loyalty card (or have one awkwardly on your keychain), in addition to a wholesaler’s card (Costco, Sam’s Club, etc.), so it’s not a great leap to expect other large chains such as these to implement similar services once Walmart has ironed out all the kinks.
As is always they case, however, the cool apps come to iOS first. Walmart announced that an Android version will be available soon, but for now it’s only the iPhone users who get to skip through the express check-out line.