Walmart’s Auto Shopping List: The Next Killer Mobile App?

Written by Evan Schuman
May 29th, 2013

Gibu Thomas, the SVP for mobile/digital at Walmart (NYSE:WMT), recently floated the idea of a mobile shopping app that uses POS and CRM files to prepopulate a shopping list, filling it with things that the customer is likely to run out of very soon. At a glance, this may seem like a throwaway idea his team is toying with. But for quite a few reasons, this seemingly innocuous functionality idea could truly be the killer app that retailers often strive for.

The idea, which Thomas made a passing reference to during a keynote speech at CTIA Wireless, was referenced this way: “The best shopping list is the one you don’t have to create and that’s what we’re working on.” (Technically, the best shopping list is the one that someone else has to shop and pay for, but I digress.) Presumably, this mobile app would be built atop the chain’s experimental Scan & Go mobile app, which prepares in-aisle checkout leveraging existing self-checkout units.

Given that Scan & Go—by its very nature—requires the shopper to register beforehand and to be associated with a verified payment method, it delivers an ideal CRM platform. This is a nice backdoor way to get into CRM for Walmart, which doesn’t have a traditional CRM program and never has had one.

That is a crucial element of Thomas’ self-populating shopping list. It would presumably build on that shopper’s complete shopping history, noting typical durations between purchases of identical items and using that data to project when that shopper will likely be about to run out of that product.

The small magic here is that this is extreme customization, down to the individual shopper, and it’s also likely—if done well, which Walmart has a nasty habit of doing—that it will be quite accurate. Combined, that delivers the big magic: namely, that this app is likely to be impressively sticky. In non-Web English, this is something shoppers are likely to use and to use often.

A good analogy for this is those automated reminders that car companies and gas stations like to send out via e-mail for oil refills. What should be a clever way to get customers back to pay for more service—presented as a courtesy FYI that your oil should need changing right about now—often fails. Personally, my driving patterns are erratic, and I rarely come anywhere close to driving the average number of miles per year. Therefore, those reminders are humorously way off. That means that I ignore them, which is the kiss of death for such functionality.

If Walmart’s shopping lists are accurate, though, shoppers would have an excellent reason to routinely check them (while in-store), even if they think they have everything.


One Comment | Read Walmart’s Auto Shopping List: The Next Killer Mobile App?

  1. ed Says:

    A mobile shopping list app offering linear inventory replenishment for a household is great. A mobile shopping list app smart enough to revolve around existing items in the household pantry would be killer.

    In the 8 hot dog buns to 10 hot dogs in a package scenario, the shopping list mobile app should be smart enough to recommend a can of baked beans to make frank & beans with the 2 remaining hot dogs instead of inventory replenishment.

    Wal-Mart would love for me to buy a new package of hot dog buns, but as a customer, I want to make the best use of what I have in my household and have diversity in my meal choices.


StorefrontBacktalk delivers the latest retail technology news & analysis. Join more than 60,000 retail IT leaders who subscribe to our free weekly email. Sign up today!

Most Recent Comments

Why Did Gonzales Hackers Like European Cards So Much Better?

I am still unclear about the core point here-- why higher value of European cards. Supply and demand, yes, makes sense. But the fact that the cards were chip and pin (EMV) should make them less valuable because that demonstrably reduces the ability to use them fraudulently. Did the author mean that the chip and pin cards could be used in a country where EMV is not implemented--the US--and this mis-match make it easier to us them since the issuing banks may not have as robust anti-fraud controls as non-EMV banks because they assumed EMV would do the fraud prevention for them Read more...
Two possible reasons that I can think of and have seen in the past - 1) Cards issued by European banks when used online cross border don't usually support AVS checks. So, when a European card is used with a billing address that's in the US, an ecom merchant wouldn't necessarily know that the shipping zip code doesn't match the billing code. 2) Also, in offline chip countries the card determines whether or not a transaction is approved, not the issuer. In my experience, European issuers haven't developed the same checks on authorization requests as US issuers. So, these cards might be more valuable because they are more likely to get approved. Read more...
A smart card slot in terminals doesn't mean there is a reader or that the reader is activated. Then, activated reader or not, the U.S. processors don't have apps certified or ready to load into those terminals to accept and process smart card transactions just yet. Don't get your card(t) before the terminal (horse). Read more...
The marketplace does speak. More fraud capacity translates to higher value for the stolen data. Because nearly 100% of all US transactions are authorized online in real time, we have less fraud regardless of whether the card is Magstripe only or chip and PIn. Hence, $10 prices for US cards vs $25 for the European counterparts. Read more...
@David True. The European cards have both an EMV chip AND a mag stripe. Europeans may generally use the chip for their transactions, but the insecure stripe remains vulnerable to skimming, whether it be from a false front on an ATM or a dishonest waiter with a handheld skimmer. If their stripe is skimmed, the track data can still be cloned and used fraudulently in the United States. If European banks only detect fraud from 9-5 GMT, that might explain why American criminals prefer them over American bank issued cards, who have fraud detection in place 24x7. Read more...

Our apologies. Due to legal and security copyright issues, we can't facilitate the printing of Premium Content. If you absolutely need a hard copy, please contact customer service.