Improving the in-store checkout experience in local retail shops | Walmart

Alekhya Lingutla
4 min readMay 30, 2022

Despite Walmart expediting the checkout process by providing separate lanes for express checkout, self checkout, and having maximum lanes open during busy hours, an average user spends more than 11 minutes waiting in the queue, and in peak times the waiting time would cross 20 minutes. This further increases the checkout fatigue per user and makes waiting in the line a time-consuming chore

Resulting user behavior

  1. Increased frustration
  2. 81% of users surveyed mentioned their key pain point is the long waiting time
  3. Most of the users feel they waste more than 1 hours time for shopping
  4. Hopeless

Impact created by solving this problem

  1. ~10 billion potential increase in revenue with retention
  2. CAGR of 23% in retail industry
  3. Smartphone penetration expected to increase from 80–90% by 2016
  4. User save time and feel happy :)

Let’s now look at waiting time

Assumptions

  • The counters operate at the similar capacity
  • The flow rate of customers is same at all the time
  • The number of products bought is same for all customers
  • The customer arrival rate is calculated by doing some primary research during the day (9customers/ 5 min)
  • The counter capacity rate is calculated by some external primary research during the day (10customers/5 min)
Calculations

Key results

  • The average waiting time in the queue is 0.33min
  • Average number of customers waiting in line is 0.594
  • Average time spent by the customers in the process is 0.83min
  • Average number of customers in the process is 1.494

Where can we reduce it?

  1. Time taken to take the products
  • The time is usually negligible
  • It can vary depending on the number of products each has (variation is small)

2. Time taken to scan

  • The time taken to scan each product will depend largely on the number of products
  • The time taken here is determined by the scanner, cashier, time wasted between scanning products

a. Cashier inefficiency: Cashier inefficiency is due to lack of training of employees. Walmart has over 2 million employees and it can’t rely on employees showing up everyday. Although they get incentivized to work for more hours, number of cashiers present is not something that’s in the hands of Walmart. About 10–20% of the waiting time increase is coming from cashier inefficiency

b. Scanner inefficiency: Scanner inefficiency can be due to software issues that is more prominent in countries with not so advanced technologies such as India, Pakistan and other developing countries. Studies show that scanner inefficiency is not a major concern in most of the countries Walmart operates in.

c. Time wasted during and in between products : Time wasted between scanning products can be attributed to inefficiency of cashier and scanner, but it can also be due to other issues such as picking up slow, doing other things that are not relating to scanning in between. This can also happen because there are fewer number of employees. More number of products is the common reason for the time taken to scan to increase. About 70% increase in waiting time is coming because there are a greater number of products

3. Time taken to pack and leave the line

  • This is also very negligible
  • It can depend on the number of products, but the variation is however small

Scan to go: Strategy and implementation

How does it work

  1. The user enters the store
  2. Opens the walmart app
  3. Opens the camera within app
  4. Scans the barcode on the product (amount gets added to the application’s cart, amount also gets added to the counter system)
  5. pay the generated amount at the counter
  6. To account for fraud: The baggage is compared to the total weight of the items you scanned
  7. OR user can choose to pay it later and amount will get locked in the cart

How to account for increased user experience?

Play to win

  1. Incentivize customers to take the waiting line by making the experience fun
  2. Customers will play a game through their mobile application while standing in the lines. If they finish the game before their turn arrives, they get a flat 10% or xx% discount or even redeemable points
  3. The games will be generated by an inbuilt random generator and there will be various games and will be different for different users
  4. the discount % can vary or the method chosen can vary. This is a fun way to incentivize the customers and make it fun to wait in the line. The games will be of 7–11 minutes which is what the average waiting time in Walmart usually is. Sudoku and other small puzzles can be examples of such games
  5. The user can even rank yourself and see how others are doing creating a leaderboard every time you finish a game while waiting

Risks

  • Application crashes
  • Payment failures
  • Online security and privacy issues
  • Risks of extra costs involved without potential increases in revenues
  • Risk of investing in an application that users don’t want

Mitigation

App crashes

  • Many backup Serves
  • Different modes of payment available
  • Connect with other third party payment methods

Security and privacy issues

  • Estimate the need for proper security precautions
  • Go through the required security vetting process

Risk of investing in an application that doesn’t reap benefits

  • Seek inputs from the customer, perform A/B testing to understand the functionality they require
  • Understand the types of mobile devices the customers have

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Alekhya Lingutla

For every emotion that is instilled, I write to unfold.