Walmart announced on Thursday it’s beginning to test new technology that arms store staff with mobile devices for checking out customers from the floor. The devices will first be put into use in Walmart’s “Lawn & Garden Centers” in more than 350 U.S. stores, where there’s the most need for a mobile checkout experience like this.
Before, customers shopping for items like mulch, soil or flowers may have had to go inside the physical store to pay for their Lawn & Garden purchases, which was often challenging due to the size and weight of these items. Now, they’ll be able to pay on the spot with store staff’s help.
The new service, which Walmart is calling “Check Out With Me,” involves store employees wearing a small carrying case equipped with a Bluetooth receipt printer. Their cellular device works as the barcode scanner and the credit card swiper for the transactions.
Staff assists the customers by scanning large items — like bags of mulch — while it’s still on the shelf, so customers don’t have to load heavy carts and push them through the store or to one of the Lawn & Garden Center’s fixed checkout stations. They can just carry them straight to their car parked nearby.
The service will help Walmart with its sales that take place outside the Lawn & Garden Center, too.
“During the summer, we also sell a lot of items like mulch, live plants and potting soil outside of the store — similar to Home Depot or Lowe’s,” a spokesperson said. “This new option allows people to pay for those items on the spot versus paying in the store then going outside to load the items.”
The retailer says it’s not hiring additional staff for Check Out With Me, but will use existing employees for the service.
This isn’t the first time Walmart has used mobile technology to speed up checkouts. The company also offers Walmart Pay for in-store checkout, which involves scanning a barcode on customers’ phones to pay at the register. And its Sam’s Club warehouse club offers Scan & Go, which lets customers skip the checkout line by scanning items as they shop, then showing their e-receipt at the door on their way out.
Upgrades that make checkout quicker are especially important to retailers today in light of increased competition from Amazon, which has now established a physical presence through Whole Foods, its own bookstores and its new Amazon Go stores.
In the latter, customers don’t have to check out at all — cameras, AI systems and sensor technology let them simply grab items and leave. The idea is to offer a faster way for consumers to buy items, while also tying their day-to-day purchases to their Amazon account to get a more holistic view of the shoppers’ habits. Other companies are offering similar systems for other retailers, like AiFi, IMAGR and Standard Cognition. And Walmart has been said to be testing checkout-free technology, as well.
In the meantime, Check Out With Me is available in more than 350 U.S. stores, starting today. That’s a small subset of Walmart’s 4,700 U.S. stores, but the company considers the rollout a “test” for the time being.