Walmart to help customers order and pay for items online in stores
Walmart is launching a new service to allow customers to buy items online that they can’t find in-store while shopping.
Seeking to help customers complete their complete shopping lists while in the store, Walmart now equips employees with portable devices that can order out-of-stock items from Walmart.com on-site and then print a receipt. so that the customer can pay for them before they leave the store.
Walmart said customers can pay for all of their purchases in the store, and items that are out of stock will be shipped to their homes or shipped for pickup at the local store at no cost.
The new service, called Dotcom Store, is available in nearly all 4,700 Walmart stores and the service is available year-round.
“The Dotcom store gives customers even more assortment options than what is on our physical shelves, whether they are different sizes, colors or varieties,” said Tom Ward, senior vice president of digital and central operations, Walmart US “As busy families come to our stores to get ready for the holidays, they can be sure that our associates will get them everything they need and quickly, whether it’s an item they can find on our store shelves or online.
To use the service, customers must locate a Walmart employee when they cannot find an item in a store or an item that is out of stock or unavailable in stores. The Walmart employee will search for items sold and shipped by Walmart online on a handheld device in the store and place the order on behalf of the customer, with the option of shipping them directly to the customer’s home or to the store for pickup.
The customer will either receive a printed receipt or an email / SMS with a barcode allowing them to pay at any cash register in the store. The shipping process begins after the customer has paid for the item at checkout and the transaction is complete.
The Dotcom Store app includes all products sold and shipped by Walmart. The retailer said it plans to add Marketplace items on Walmart.com to the app in the near future. The technology is also expected to give Walmart insight into what products customers are looking for and cannot find in their local Walmart stores. Walmart and other mainstream retailers often don’t know what shoppers aren’t finding in their stores. It’s a missed opportunity for sales.
Inventory management is a high priority for Walmart and physical stores simply cannot provide the breadth of assortment that can be offered online. Walmart, however, is now working to ensure that customers have access to this full assortment and can pay for these transactions in one simple transaction.
Walmart trusts its employees to run the new service and it is not a customer-centric app. This could be tricky to achieve, as employees are sometimes difficult to find in a store depending on the time of day or night.
Overall, retail experts praise Walmart for its efforts to help customers buy everything on their shopping list in one trip. That said, many retail insiders would prefer Walmart to provide the technology to consumers and not rely so much on its own sales force to complete the transaction.
RetailWire held a discussion on the topic on its website on Tuesday (December 4).
Dave Bruno, Marketing Director at Aptos, said during the discussion: “I applaud Walmart’s efforts to continue trying to improve the in-store experience, but I wonder why they have limited this functionality to apps intended for to the partners. Why wouldn’t they offer the same functionality through their consumer app? Free delivery when out of stock is a big plus, but associates are often scarce at Walmart. So why not use the phone’s GPS technology and offer the same service and free shipping directly to in-store shoppers? It sounds like a missed opportunity.
Mel Kleiman, president of Humetrics, said he had personally seen how technological tools make a difference during his last two shopping trips to Walmart. His suggestion to Walmart is to combine the out-of-stock app with mobile checkout to raise the bar for customer service, rather than having a customer try to track down an employee for help.
Stephen Needel, managing partner at Advanced Simulations, would like Walmart to use kiosks for the task, similar to what is done at Target and Kohl. He said to put large “I can’t find it” signs near kiosks and let customers do the work themselves.
Others believe Walmart is just fixing its out-of-stock issue with technology. Andrew Blatherwick, president of Relex Solutions, told RetailWire that if the Walmart app is really meant to compensate for stockouts, then the company is missing the point.
“Solve the out-of-stock problem; don’t put a bandage on it with apps like this, ”he said. “The number of Walmart associates in the shop would not solve this problem, as customers will likely be more frustrated with trying to find someone to help them… If Walmart creates an endless aisle app that allows items not stocked in this store, so this is a step forward, but not really new, as many retailers already have such facilities. “