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Walmart Embraces Mobile and BYOD

Walmart has recently made two advances in bringing the mobile device experience effectively into its stores. One is enabling an AR scanner to be used on smartphones and the other is allowing employees to use their own smartphones for functions at work.

As price stickers with any resemblance to current prices have become a relic of the 20th century, customers often have to bring items to an in-store device to find out the price of the item they’re considering. By allowing that piece information to come through mobile devices, Walmart is empowering both its customers and the staff that serves them. Walmart is going further, though, by giving instant access to product reviews and comparisons through an individual’s phone.

Walmart just unveiled its new AR scanner to help customers make the most informed decision about value when faced with such a large variety of choices for each product category. It demonstrated how the scanner operates in this video:

AR Scanner Preview from Tim Sears on Vimeo.

While it is already possible for customers to discover more about products from their phone, this makes the experience instant and seamless. They merely have to direct the phone toward the items on the shelves to bring up the relevant information.

While the customer is getting empowered through the power of mobile technology, Walmart did not want its employees to be at a disadvantage. Though the retailer can supply devices for that purpose, it decided to capitalize on the fact that many employees already own their own phones and bring them to work. As Business Insider Walmart took a 180 degree turn from banning employee phone use at work to promoting BYOD.

Not only can employees use their own phones to check prices, inventory, put in or receive updates — they have a lot more capability at their fingertips. Those who opt in by downloading the requisite store apps and using their phones accordingly will be rewarded with savings on their cell service.

Praveen Kanyadi, Co-founder and VP, Products, Groupe.io, offered some insight into why he believes Walmart’s move will mark the start of a trend. It has become clear that the employees prefer using the device with which they are familiar and also prefer not to have to carry an additional device. This approach capitalizes on what employees are already carrying and what they know how to use to improve store productivity at lower cost.

“The primary objective is to bring in tech to help store associates get more efficient,” he said. “The apps are designed to fit with what store associates do every day and automate tasks where possible, reducing the need for manual operations.”

In addition to automating reads on inventory, updating pricing, and the like, employees will gain access to the type of data  that had before only been accessible to managers. This empowers the store associates to track historical data of what sells at and with what frequency. On the most practical level, it enables them to act on what needs to be done — like replenishing the stock of an item that has been cleared off the shelf — before a customer brings the missing item to their attention.

“It is very significant that they are bringing data and analytics to store associates,” Kanyadi observed. This is the real power of mobile, giving people access to the information they need when they need.

“With a lot more information at their fingertips, they can make real time decisions and improve operations,” he said.

As for privacy concerns about the exchange of information operating like a two-way street, Kanyadi said Walmart took care of that by barring any access to personal data on the phone, including other apps, texts, usage, and location data. The apps can only pick up on specific things like the storage capacity, battery power, and what relates to corporate communication.

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