Walmart's Scan & Go Moves to China

Patrycja Malinowska
Director, Member Content, P2PI
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While Scan & Go failed to make the cut in Walmart’s U.S. business, the concept took off quickly in China, where the retailer launched the mobile checkout service via a third-party application.

“We realized that our core business — what happens in the store — is an area where we need to see improvement,” said Ben Hassing, senior vice president, e-commerce and technology for Walmart China, during a panel presentation at ShopTalk earlier this month. “We need to understand who that customer is.”

Whether in China or in the U.S., Hassing said in-store shoppers have two major pain points: they hate to wait in line and they hate not being able to find their item within the store’s massive assortment. The retailer saw a chance to solve both quickly and cost-effectively about a year and a half ago when Tencent’s WeChat gave developers the ability to build mini programs directly inside of the popular mobile application — which, with 1.2 billion monthly active users, is essentially “the digital lifeblood of China,” Hassing said.

“That technology is very light and fast, the codebase is only four megabytes … the cost of development is extremely low and, of course, being integrated inside of WeChat, the adoption rate is very, very high,” Hassing said.

Working closely with Tencent, the retailer rapidly launched a Scan & Go mini program that started with just one functionality: letting shoppers scan items as they go and checkout via mobile to skip the line. Collaborating across departments with store operations, human resources, asset protection and other stakeholders, the retailer removed the friction at checkout but kept the initial version as easy to use as possible to drive adoption.

“What we differentiated ourselves on was rollout with speed: we launched in April and completed an all-store rollout by November,” Hassing said. “We now have the relationship in the store, after the store, and before the store with those customers — that’s a very powerful thing in China.”

As of December, the mini program had more than 10 million monthly active users, with more than 30% of the transactions on the front-end occurring via Scan & Go.

The retailer addressed shoppers’ second pain point by adding another functionally that lets them navigate inside of the store based on their shopping list. The mini program additionally supports the retailer’s e-commerce platform, facilitating one-hour and same-day delivery services.

Walmart China this year also brought together local tech startups under a new innovation services platform dubbed Omega 8.

“You can imagine there are a lot of new technologies that are already deployed today in China and we are finding use cases for those in retail,” Hassing said.

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