November 13, 2017 5:57 pm
Updated: November 13, 2017 8:49 pm

New technology speeds up shopping, signals battle between world’s biggest companies

WATCH ABOVE: The world's biggest retailer is promising its new technology will make its customers' shopping experience a little easier. But as Fletcher Kent explains, one retail expert says Walmart's new way of paying has more implications that just for convenience.

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Attention: Walmart shoppers. You no longer have to wait in long lines to buy your things.

Walmart had been testing Scan & Go technology in two stores in eastern Canada. In late October, 20 more stores brought in the scanning devices, including four Walmart stores in the Edmonton area and two in Calgary.

READ MORE: Walmart tests grocery service that would place items into the fridge

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At Walmart entrances, customers can pick up a scanning gun that’s about the size of a cellphone. They then shop and scan all their items as they’re putting them into the cart or reusable bags.

When customers finish shopping, they tap “finished” on their device. A bar code is displayed on the screen and the customer scans that into a “Scan & Go” self check-out lane where they pay and leave.

To prevent theft, the technology randomly requires a clerk to check purchases before the customer pays and leaves.

Jeff Atvars has tried the new scanner and says he loves it.

“I found it allowed you to track your purchases and it allows you to confirm prices and it saves time going through the tills — I’d say 10 minutes.”

Watch below: Is scan-and-go technology putting jobs at risk?

Walmart Canada spokesperson Alex Roberton said customers are demanding these kinds of services now.

“We want to make shopping a lot more convenient to allow customers to save time and allow them to buy what they want, when they want, where they want and pick it up how they want, whether it’s in store or at home.”

Some U.S. Walmart stores are taking the technology a step further. Walmart has developed a Scan & Go phone app. Customers can use their phone camera to scan products and pay with a credit card linked to their app. Roberton said that technology is close to being tested in Canada.

There’s more to this technology than helping shoppers save a few minutes.

John Pracejus is the director of the University of Alberta’s School of Retailing. He said customer demand is just one reason for the new devices. Competition is at the heart of the tech roll-out.

“There’s really this war going on between companies you might not have thought of as being competitors,” said Pracejus, who believes the Walmart app will position the retailing giant to compete with Google and Facebook.

READ MORE: Here’s a look at some high-tech sales tricks up Walmart’s sleeve

Given the number of users both tech giants have, both Google and Facebook generate an immense amount of user data. The companies know a great deal about their users’ shopping habits and interests.

With the Scan & Go app, one of the world’s biggest companies will be able to track customer purchases in ways they haven’t been able to do before.

“It’s going to link that customer to where they go online, all the ads they see. It’s a much more complete package. It’s valuable and powerful,” Pracejus said.

“Moving forward, I have to believe that all retailers will have to become very tech savvy in the next five to 10 years in order to keep up.”

As this technology spreads, Pracejus said it will affect jobs.

“Eventually, this is going to be the point of checkout and it’s going to cut down on the amount of cashiers,” he said.

Walmart stressed that the scanners have actually led to increased employment. Existing tills remain open and staff are needed to help customers with the Scan & Go devices. However, Pracejus believes those jobs will disappear as customers get used to the technology and traditional check-out lanes disappear.

He predicts rapidly evolving technology in multiple sectors could mean significant wide-spread job loss. Walmart won’t be the only store to adopt scanning technology. Pracejus adds self-driving cars will make truck drivers less sought-after.

“You start talking about that, you’re talking about a substantial number of people who are not only going to lose their job at employer A, but employer B, C and D are also downsizing.

“There’s going to be some structural unemployment problems in the retail sector and in the professional driving sector.”

READ MORE: Here’s how scientists convinced self-driving cars that stop signs were speed limit signs

In 2016, Walmart generated nearly half a trillion dollars U.S. of revenue.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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