LIVE FROM CTIA 13, LAS VEGAS: Walmart – the world’s largest retailer – is using mobile technology to bring the power of ecommerce to its stores while remaining faithful to its customer-centric approach, Gibu Thomas, global head of mobile for the company, said this morning. And Walmart plans to make the most of an opportunity that will see mobile-influenced offline sales hit $689 billion by 2016.

“The future of retailing is the history of retailing — a personalised interactive experience for every customer delivered from a smartphone,” Thomas said, emphasising that mobile tools need to address customer needs above all else, allowing them to save money and time.

“It doesn’t always have to be the cutting edge whizz-bang feature to get the kind of impact you want for your customer. It could be simple things that fit their everyday needs,” he said.

With 90 per cent of sales still taking place in physical stores, Thomas said that Walmart is working to make its mobile tools “indispensable” to customers. He cited figures claiming that by 2016 smartphone-generated mcommerce will reach revenue of $27 billion. In that timeframe ecommerce will hit $345 billion while mobile-influenced offline sales will be twice the ecommerce figure.

The best way to bring customers to mobile tools is to add new capabilities to long-established tools, such as the humble shopping list, Thomas explained.

The shopping list function in the Walmart app has predictive text for items in store and intelligent voice algorithms that can distinguish single and multiple items. It also provides local store prices, item locations and shopping basket totals.

The app also has the option to switch to Store Mode when in stores, providing a more task-focused interface to help users complete their shopping more efficiently.

In the future the app could also incorporate dietary needs and locate digital coupons: “By leveraging big data, we’re also developing predictive capabilities to automatically generate shopping lists for customers based on what they purchase each week. A list that never forgets something you need,” Thomas said.

And there is clearly an appetite for mobile technology, with more than 50 per cent of Walmart customers owning a smartphone, and a third of traffic to coming from mobile devices.

Customers who use the Walmart app make an average of two extra trips to stores and spend 40 per cent each month more compared with those that don’t.