By Jessica Wohl
(Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc said it is tripling the number of U.S. stores in a pilot program that lets shoppers scan items with their iPhones and pay at self-checkout counters.
Walmart's "Scan & Go" program will soon be in more than 200 stores, up from about 70. The pilot began near its home office in Bentonville, Arkansas in late 2012, then expanded to Atlanta.
While the program is tripling in size, for now it will be in only a small fraction of Walmart's more than 4,000 U.S. stores.
"We want our customer feedback to dictate the experience," Gibu Thomas, senior vice president of mobile and digital at Walmart Global eCommerce, said this week. "You'll see this roll out to more markets."
For now, "Scan & Go" only works on Apple Inc devices. An Android version should be out soon, Walmart said.
With more than half of its shoppers using smartphones, Walmart is trying to make shopping more convenient for shoppers who embrace mobile technology. More than half of the customers who have tried the "Scan & Go" feature have used it more than once, Thomas said.
Shoppers scan bar codes on items they want to buy, using the Walmart app on their iPhone, iPod touch or iPad to keep track of the planned purchases and the total cost. Then they pay at a self-checkout screen, bypassing the typical registers.
As it expands the pilot test of "Scan & Go," Walmart is also adding self-checkout lanes to many more stores. Right now, about 1,500 stores have self-checkout lanes, and another 1,000 to 1,500 stores should get them this year, said Jeff McAllister, senior vice president of Walmart U.S. Innovations.
DIGITAL COUPONS MAY BE COMING
Walmart is bringing "Scan & Go" into a dozen more markets: Denver, Colorado; Phoenix, Arizona; Omaha, Nebraska; Dallas and Austin, Texas; Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma; Wyoming; Bozeman, Montana; Seattle, Washington; San Jose, California; and Portland, Oregon.
Users can get an electronic receipt along with a paper one. Walmart has hinted digital coupons may be coming soon.
Scan & Go users pay in the traditional way, not via apps on their devices. The company declined to comment further on mobile payment possibilities.
Last year, Wal-Mart and other retailers joined together to develop Merchant Customer Exchange, a mobile payment network to try to match similar services from Google Inc and eBay Inc, among others. No details have emerged on the project.
(Reporting by Jessica Wohl in Chicago; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)