Today, Walmart is launching an updated iPhone application and a new iPad app, in an effort to better connect customers’ offline and online shopping experiences. The iPhone app in particular brings a number of new features, including voice-enabled shopping list creation, barcode scanning and integrated manufacturers’ coupons, while the iPad app offers the ability to find items both online and at the local store.
The two applications are among the first products to ship from @WalmartLabs, the recently formed group in Walmart’s Global eCommerce unit, which arose from the retailer’s acquisition of social media startup Kosmix earlier this year. The group is also behind Walmart’s new social shopping Facebook app, Shopycat, which will recommend gifts for friends based on their Facebook activity.
Although social integration is not present in the new apps just yet (that’s coming, though), they do offer some cool tricks of their own. For example, you can talk to your iPhone to build your shopping list, without having to pause or speak each item individually. That means you can say “milk, eggs, bread, laundry detergent, swiss cheese, cold cuts” all in one breath, and the app knows to separate each item onto its own line. The speech component, like that found on the new iPhone 4S, is powered by Nuance. However, in this case, it’s baked into the app natively, allowing for backward compatibility with all existing models of iPhone.
Shopping lists can also be updated manually or via barcode scanning, similar to other shopping list applications already available in iTunes. But unlike many of those apps, Walmart’s app will include the pricing information and a running total in real-time as the lists are built.
Another useful feature for Walmart’s budget-conscious shoppers is the customized integration with Coupons.com. As you add items to your list, you’re able to immediately “clip” the associated coupon, if one is available. Coupons.com has its own app in the iTunes App Store, but it will not be integrated with Walmart’s, we’re told.
When complete, the shopping list can be emailed to family and friends.
A final notable feature in the updated iPhone app is the item finder, now in beta. This displays the in-store aisle location of each item in your local store. In the future, Walmart plans to build on top of this feature in order to sort your shopping lists and map out your path through the store for increased efficiency and speedier shopping.
The newly launched iPad app, offers many of the same features as found on the iPhone, but expands upon the inventory checking functionality to include access Walmart.com inventory as well as local inventory. Both apps provide access to product information details, including customer ratings and reviews.
As for Amazon, Walmart’s main online competitor, Gibu Thomas, Walmart’s Senior VP of Mobile and Digital would only comment that Walmart now has 3,800 stores in the U.S. and sees “Internet-scale” traffic in its brick-and-mortar locations every week, during which time 140 million people shop in its stores. Although he wouldn’t draw a direct comparison with Walmart’s efforts and Amazon’s, the increasingly integrated experiences of online, offline, mobile, and soon social, will clearly play an important role in Walmart’s competitive strategies in the months ahead, potentially turning the retailer’s foot traffic into online customers.