Walmart on Tuesday announced the rollout of a new app for store associates that allows customers to order and pay for items from the retailer's online shopping site while in brick-and-mortar stores, according to a Walmart press release.
Shoppers using the service (which is available in every store in the continental U.S.) can pay via any payment method, including cash. A store associate assists in the ordering process and prints off a receipt that the customer then takes to the checkout lane. Customers can chose to ship the purchased item directly to their home or opt to pick it up for free at a Walmart store. In part, the service is targeting shoppers who want to pay in cash and who may not have frequent access to the internet.
Though Walmart announced the app this week, a company spokesperson told Retail Dive that it has been tested in a pilot program over the last few weeks. So far, the company has noticed the service has been particularly popular in the home department. The company is also testing self-serve kiosks at the end of aisles in 20 stores.
Over the last year, Walmart has taken several big steps to merge its online and in-store experiences with the rollout of services that let customers pay for items in store on mobile devices. In January, Walmart announced Scan & Go, a service that enabled shoppers to checkout on their smartphones. It aggressively expanded that offering only to end the rollout just as quickly. Next, in April, came Checkout With Me, an option that allowed shoppers in Walmart Lawn & Garden departments to pay on the go via mobile devices held by store associates. Now, there's an app to buy online from a store associate while inside of a store.
The flurry of activity and change in focus may confuse some, but Walmart is still in the process of figuring out which digital capabilities to integrate with its physical store experiences to enhance their value.
Industry watchers already are commenting that the new app is a strong move in the right direction. "At its core, this move from Walmart is one step further in seamlessly merging its online and offline experiences to ensure that the brand is present in all the channels the customer wants to shop in," Danielle Roberts, senior product manager at Kibo, told Retail Dive via email. "With this move, when a consumer says, 'I saw this product on your website,' the Walmart associate will have one more digital tool within his/her arsenal to not only save the sale but instantly improve the experience for the shopper."
Gavin Bisdee, vice president of global marketing at Zynstra, added, "We've known for some time that the future of the retail store will mean blurring the lines between online and offline stores, and leaders like Walmart are making this more and more into a permanent reality." He also pointed out that the new offering helps store associates increase their own productivity and value, getting them involved in interactions that will lead to a sale.
This app reflects the reality of where retailers are in 2018, and where they need to go in 2019: Reaching customers isn't just about making sure merchandise is available through all channels and devices, though that definitely helps.