Wal-Mart is testing an app that would enable shoppers to scan goods with a smartphone as they walk along supermarket aisles; an attempt by the US retailer to cut checkout queues. However, the app would not enable shoppers to pay using their handsets. They would still need to pay for the scanned goods in their basket at a self-service kiosk.

The company is currently testing the Scan and Go iOS app at one store in Arkansas among its own staff rather than customers. The trial will establish whether the self-scanning service is user-friendly.  Like other major retailers, Wal-Mart likes the idea of self-service because potentially it can speed up transactions and reduce staff costs. It is unclear what technology Wal-Mart is using for its trial.

The US retailer is one of the most prominent members in Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX), a new company set up by leading merchants to build their own system to enable payments via mobile phone at the checkout. The scanning initiative appears to be a separate, internal trial for Wal-Mart rather than part of MCX.

The phone-scanning of goods is another place for retailers to look for reduced costs. However, many have experienced mixed results with self-service kiosks where users both scan and then pay for their own goods without dealing with shop staff. Theft and lack of interaction with customers are reported problems. Mobile scanning could experience similar problems although it potentially offers greater insight about shopping habits via the data traffic on the handset.