Just in time for the holidays, Walmart is rolling out a number of new features it says will make shopping easier than ever, including a program aimed at helping shoppers avoid checkout lines altogether and an app that maps out each store.
“Check Out With Me,” a new program announced Monday, will enable customers to pay for items directly with Walmart associates using hand-held devices and stationed around the store. The new strategy is intended to spare customers the hassle of trying to get large items like Christmas trees and televisions through long and cumbersome checkout lines, though the service "is not limited to any one particular type of item,” a spokesperson for Walmart told NBC News.
The program will be slowly rolled out in coming weeks and will be available in all Walmart Supercenters by Black Friday.
The retail giant is also introducing an enhanced store app that will enable customers to pinpoint the location of a given item, right down to its exact position within a store aisle.
Walmart’s new shopping programs comes as the Arkansas-based retail chain takes on Target and Amazon in what retail analysts are calling a shipping war.
Last week, Walmart announced plans to offer free shipping for millions of marketplace items priced $35 and up, and said it will launch a new program in mid-November that allows customers to return items purchased online to any physical Walmart store.
Walmart’s new online shopping offers coincide with Target’s new shipping offers. Last week the Minneapolis-based retailer unveiled a new promotion that offers free two-day shipping on most of its items with no minimum purchase necessary. Amazon is also getting in on the shipping battle, offering its Prime members free one-day shipping on a number of its items, with a minimum purchase of $35.
Retail analysts say offering consumers an enhanced online shopping experience is key, as more consumers than ever before are expected to shop online this holiday season.
“We’re seeing shoppers go online more and more,” said Hitha Herzog, a retail analyst for H Squared Research. “That whole in-store shopping experience is dwindling.”
Online shopping is expected to grow 20 percent this holiday season, to more than $120 billion — though online purchasing is still only about 10 percent of all retail.