@WalmartLabs’ Price Comparison Tech Will Soon Automatically Credit Walmart Shoppers For Competitor Discounts

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Price comparison technology from retail giant Walmart’s R&D center, @WalmartLabs, will begin rolling out this summer on web and mobile, to show consumers competitors’ pricing and offer them eGift cards for the difference, if they could have saved more by shopping elsewhere. The announcement comes at a time when Walmart is facing a series of nationwide protests from workers fighting for better pay and workers’ rights.

It’s enough to make you feel bad about about the discounter’s low, low prices but…wait, hold up, they’ve got the SodaStream for only $59? I’m sorry, where was I again? Something about how savings don’t come for free?

In any event, a service called Savings Catcher which was previously available only in seven test markets during a pilot trial, is now expanding nationwide this summer, the retailer says. Savings Catcher will initially be available via the web, but will make its way to Walmart’s mobile application later this summer.

The price comparison technology is sort of like the reverse of a ShopSavvy. That is, instead of you looking to see where to buy a given item for the lowest price, you just buy the item at Walmart, then get credit back if the item was available somewhere else for less.

However, the system isn’t focused on offering store-wide price comparisons across competitors’ entire inventory. Instead, it only looks to see if the price you paid at Walmart was lower or higher than the price competitors listed in their weekly print ads.

To use Savings Catcher, consumers will enter a number provided at the bottom of their receipt into the website, or soon the mobile app, along with the date of their shopping trip. The system then examines the items purchased and compares prices across major local retailers, including Aldi, Harris-Teeter, Target, Walgreens and HEB. If a lower price is spotted, Walmart customers receive an eGift Card for the difference.

At launch, the tool will automatically compare Walmart’s prices across 80,000 grocery and consumables purchases, and in the months ahead, Walmart will expand into produce and general merchandise price comparisons, too.

Automatic Discounts To Come

Also in the near future, the company will roll out eReceipts within their smartphone applications, and will begin offering an option to allow customers to load their purchases into Savings Catcher automatically to find the lowest prices in their area. That means consumers would have minimal steps to take beyond the initial setup to start accumulating the savings.

Plus, these eReceipts, the company explains, aren’t like those other retailers simply send you via email, but can actually be used to help create shopping lists or when planning budgets. And further down the road, both the eReceipts and Savings Catcher will work with other technologies Walmart has in the works, including eCoupons and automated shopping lists.

During the pilot program this spring, consumers in Atlanta, Charlotte, Lexington, Dallas, Huntsville, San Diego and Minneapolis processed nearly 1 million receipts in Savings Catcher, making it one of the biggest technology concepts Walmart has tested to date. The website is live now and still in beta, with the wider launch expected this summer.

In reality, Walmart’s competitors will likely just react to this tool’s existence by making sure they offer exclusive and compelling weekly savings of their own to get customers into their stores. But the technology behind this savings tool is innovative, and it notably demonstrates how Walmart’s investment in R&D is starting to pay off not only on the e-commerce side of its business, but also in the real world.