May 31, 2012, 1:53 PM

Wal-Mart wants consumers to use its apps in stores

The retailer adds new features to its app designed specifically for store shoppers.

Lead Photo

At a time when some retail chains are worried that store shoppers will use their smartphones to scour the web seeking better prices, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is seeking to turn those phones to its advantage. It’s encouraging stores shoppers to whip out their smartphones by adding tools to its mobile app to help them navigate stores, nab discounts and view local store ads.

Wal-Mart has added an in-store aisle location feature to its app, telling store shoppers the aisle where they can find each item on their shopping list.  As a customer adds an item to her mobile shopping list, she will see the aisle where she’ll find the product.  The feature, which had been in beta, now works for all U.S. stores and with thousands of products across consumables, grocery, electronics and toys, Wal-Mart says.

Another new feature, called In-Store Mode, enables store shoppers to scan bar codes on products to see the price or get product information, and also scan QR codes for offers and discounts and for access to local ads and general store information. When consumers open the Wal-Mart app while in a store, the app will detect that they are in a store and prompt them to choose the In-Store Mode, Wal-Mart says.

Wal-Mart also added a tool to its app that lets consumers select the store they visit most often and create a shopping list at home by scanning, typing, or speaking items to buy.  The app then pulls the price for each item from the selected store and calculates the total price for all items on the list.  

“We’re able to do that for any of our 3,800 Wal-Mart stores across the U.S., so no matter where you happen to be, our app helps you see the estimated total of your Wal-Mart shopping trip before ever leaving home, “ Wal-Mart says in a blog post.

In conjunction with the updates to its smartphone app, Wal-Mart also beefed up its iPad app with an interactive local ad feature that enables users to virtually flip through a local store ad to view store specials and featured products. Customers can page though the ad and tap on a product to view more information and purchase the item online.

Wal-Mart’s new enhancements follow recent research that shows consumers who have a retailer-branded app on their mobile device visit the merchant’s store more often than consumers without the app. 45% of smartphone owners with a retail app visit that store more often than those without the app, a recent study by ABI Research finds.

The study, which polled 965 U.S. smartphone owners in December, also finds 40.4% of consumers buy more of a retailer’s or brand’s products if they have its app, 35.8% of app users tell a friend about their store shopping experience and 30.8% encourage friends to visit a store.

However, the research also shows consumers are picky about the apps they choose to download. Just 25% of the respondents had downloaded a retailer-branded app.

Wal-Mart is No. 4 in the Internet Retailer Mobile Commerce Top 300.

Joel Anderson, president and CEO of Walmart.com, U.S., is a featured speaker at the Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition 2012.  He will speak in a session entitled “Creating innovation through the next generation of retail” on June 6 from 9:15 a.m. to 9:45 a.m.

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