- Walmart added an augmented reality (AR) feature to its iPhone app that lets shoppers scan price tags with the smartphone's camera to see on-screen product comparisons, prices and customer ratings, according to a company blog post. The app anchors a digital blue dot to each price tag to help shoppers see which products they've already scanned in a store aisle, as a video demonstrates.
- Tim Sears, senior engineering manager at Walmart Labs, said the discount chain has "a big vision" for the future of scanning with AR but didn't provide additional details.
- Walmart says it focused on making the AR experience quick for users rather than loading it up with visual ornamentation that slows app response times. The retailer also wanted to help shoppers quickly compare products by features other than price and to make product scanning more fun to enhance the in-store journey.
Walmart's AR scanning feature in its mobile app is part of a long-term digital transformation for the world's biggest retailer, which has faced a growing threat from Amazon as the e-commerce giant expands into physical retailing with the opening of Amazon bookstores, Amazon Go cashierless shops and last year's $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods. Walmart in August reported its best sales growth in a decade with a 40% surge in digital sales, which included Walmart.com, Jet, ModCloth, Moosejaw and Bonobos.
Previously, Walmart has explored ways to embrace consumers' frequent use of phones while shopping in stores to relieve pain points and provide a more seamless shopping journey. It expanded its Scan & Go go app to 100 additional stores earlier this year to let customers skip the checkout line and instead scan, bag and pay for items directly through their smartphone. The company abandoned Scan & Go in May due to low customer adoption, but quickly pivoted to mobile point-of-sale system that lets employees ring up customers' items anywhere in the store, demonstrating that the retail giant is serious about incorporating digital and mobile tech to its stores and offerings.
The company is among the retailers adding AR experiences to their apps and in-store experiences. Amazon last year added an AR View feature to its iOS app, followed by an Android version in February, that lets customers visualize how decorating products will look in their living space, and Lowe's, Anthropologie, Ikea and Wayfair also offer similar AR overlays in their apps. Walmart competitor Target in May added a Beauty Studio feature that uses immersive tech to let people virtually try on cosmetics on Target's desktop and mobile websites as well as at kiosks in 10 retail stores, per Engadget.