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Walmart adds mobile twist to self-service checkout

Walmart adds mobile twist to self-service checkout

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While it isn't exactly a mobile payments option, a new application soon to be tested by the giant retailer could help speed transactions.

You know a retail idea is worth watching when giant retailer Wal-Mart decides to experiment with it.

So, merchants of all sizes take note: the store is planning to test a system that will let shoppers add items to a "cart" using an application on their mobile phone as they walk the aisles. The purchases can be completed at self-service kiosks, reports The Wall Street Journal.

This is another twist on the idea of mobile shopping. It's not strictly a mobile payment scheme, because it requires the use of a store-controlled point of sale system. But it does give shoppers some freedom from massive checkout lines, which is a concept that some smaller companies are trying out in a bid to differentiate their customer service. Why let shoppers bottleneck at a retail front end?

The application being tested by Walmart is called "Scan and Go," reports the WSJ. The system basically gets the customer scanning the contents of his or her cart, along the way. Supposedly, that will help get the transaction closed much more quickly.

About one-third of Walmart stores in the United States already have a self-checkout option.

Right now, the mobile-enabled system is just being tested in one Arkansas store, and it is only being tested by employees, reports the WSJ.

The idea of self-checkout is expected to keep gaining ground as a means of saving money, improving customer service and introducing new loyalty and marketing programs. But it has been received with mixed results. As SmartPlanet reported back in April, while the systems are definitely resulting in some efficiency for retailers, they have also reported higher rates of shoplifting.

Still, if Walmart winds up adopting this sort of technology, it will be difficult for other retailers to resist the urge to check it out.

[via The Wall Street Journal]

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure