Wallmart’s “Scan & Go” system, which lets shoppers “scan” an item’s barcode with their iPhone and then complete a payment at a self-checkout is set to expand to more than 200 stores across the U.S. Currently just 70 stores offer the service, which began in late 2012. Concurrent with the expansion plans, Walmart will release an edition of the system that works with Android smartphones too, and the number of self-checkout lanes installed in supermarkets will double to up to 3,000 this year.
Some supermarkets already offer a self-shopping and self-checkout service that uses proprietary handheld computers with a built-in barcode reader. But with the explosion of smartphones, many consumers are already carrying more powerful mobile computing devices in their pockets. An app-based checkout system like this allows for more persistent branding by Walmart (because the app is always there on your home screen) and may offer greater opportunities in the future for gathering customer data and delivering incentives like coupons.
Apple has been using its own EasyPay pay-by-iPhone service in its own stores for some time, utilizing iPhones as a scanning device and users’ iTunes accounts as a payment back-channel that neatly sidesteps a lot of the mess in the mobile payments space. It’s suspected that Apple’s 2013 iPhone will include a major advance in mobile payments.