With a new mobile app experience, Walmart is hoping to change the way people shop at its brick-and-mortar stores. The multinational retail chain, which now has more than 11,600 stores under 59 banners and ecommerce websites in 11 countries, recently debuted a new mobile app experience that promises to get customers in and out of stores more quickly, reimagining in-person shopping.
Walmart’s new Store Assistant is an all-encompassing mobile app solution that includes features such as Walmart Pay, a product search bar, and a product scanner that shoppers can use to double-check prices inside stores. Walmart’s mobile app enters Store Assistant mode when shoppers open it from inside a Walmart store.
“We’re building an app unlike any other in retail,” said Erin Hulliberger, senior manager of corporate communications.
Some of the features in Store Assistant are improved versions of features that already existed in Walmart’s mobile app, but others are completely new. For example, the Store Assistant’s list-building feature now gives shoppers the ability to enter generic terms, like “eggs” or “butter,” and check the availability of those items at their local stores.
Although Walmart isn’t offering opportunities for brands to market directly to consumers through the latest version of its mobile app, the company does feature item recommendations within the app. The information for those item recommendations comes directly from Walmart, Hulliberger said.
According to Daniel Eckert, senior vice president of Walmart Services and Digital Acceleration, 80% of Walmart customers make lists before coming to the store. The company’s new mobile list-building feature was designed to aid in that process, giving customers the ability to calculate the cost of an entire cart, including tax, which can vary depending on the shopper’s physical location.
Another major change involves improved in-store navigation. Walmart has created maps unique to each of its stores, which means shoppers can find where items are located down to the aisle and shelf. While store maps are already at a handful of Walmart stores, the company is rolling them out to the rest of its stores in the coming weeks and months.
Walmart isn’t alone in its quest to reimagine the in-store shopping experience through the use of mobile location technology. Retailers like Lowes and Target have been making strides in allowing shoppers to search for products available at nearby store locations through their mobile devices. IKEA has also announced plans to extend its shopping experience via an in-store companion app with features for creating lists, finding product locations, and checking off items as they’re found in-store.
As Eckert explains it, Walmart’s app update is about making the in-store shopping experience more convenient for shoppers. With ecommerce sales continuing to rise—eMarketer estimates that retail ecommerce sales worldwide reached $2.3 trillion last year, a 24% increase over the year before—Walmart and its competitors will have to continue looking for ways to make the in-person shopping experience more desirable than its online counterpart.
Walmart’s reimagined mobile app is just one of many examples of how the company is extending its digital strategy beyond ecommerce and into the physical world. In just the past few months, Walmart has acquired a small virtual reality firm and expanded its VR efforts, developed a personal shopper service and store without cashiers, and pushed to grow its advertising by positioning itself as a media platform.
The company teamed up with Google on a project that allows its customers to shop for more than 2 million items via Google Home and Google Express, and it announced plans in the fall to start buying more startups in the technology, retail, and digital brands categories.
“We are always looking for ways to make our store shopping experience faster and even more convenient,” Hulliberger says. “[We] believe our app and other technology-enabled tools and services will help us do that.”
Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.