September 5, 2012, 11:45 AM

Walmart tests an iPhone app that could replace cashiers

Consumers scan their items with the app, but pay as they normally would at self-checkout.

Lead Photo

Self-checkout combined with a smartphone scanning app could reduce costs for retailers, an analyst says.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is testing an app that enables consumers to scan products for purchase and then pay as they normally would at a self-checkout lane. The test appears to be at one Wal-Mart store, according to a Reuters report.

Details about the test are few. It is not known how data about scanned items are transferred to the checkout software.

"We are continually testing new and innovative ways to serve customers and enhance the shopping experience," a Walmart spokeswoman tells Internet Retailer. "At this point, we don't have anything specific to share on this testing."

Retailers like Walmart may be attracted to such service because it could streamline the checkout process, says Rick Oglesby, senior analyst at research firm Aite Group LLC. “It essentially allows retailers to enhance consumer shopping experiences by streamlining checkout while at the same time saving costs,” Oglesby says. “If consumers are willing to scan and bag their own items as they shop in the store, the bagging and scanning incurred by employees go down, space devoted to checkout lanes could potentially be reduced, making room for more inventory.”

This is not Walmart’s only mobile commerce checkout endeavor. It is a member of the Merchant Customer Exchange, a mobile wallet initiative formed by a group of retailers earlier this year. “MCX will leverage mobile technology to give consumers a faster and more convenient shopping experience while eliminating unnecessary costs for all stakeholders,” says Mike Cook, corporate vice president and assistant treasurer at Wal-Mart.

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

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