LOS ANGELES (CBS/AP) — The “Every Day Low Price” king is trying to shake up the world of pricing once again.
Walmart has rolled out an online tool that compares its prices on 80,000 food and household products — from canned beans to dishwashing soap — with those of its competitors. If a lower price is found elsewhere, the discounter will refund the difference to shoppers in the form of store credit.
The world’s largest retailer began offering the feature, called “Savings Catcher,” on its website late last month in seven big markets that include Dallas, San Diego and Atlanta. The tool compares advertised prices at retailers with physical stores, and not at online rivals like Amazon.com that also offer low prices on staples.
“You can think of the app as a post-purchase ad match. We are really making it easy in that you don’t have to look through those circulars anymore, you don’t have to know what’s on sale at another retailer,” Walmart spokeswoman Molly Blakeman said.
Asked why Walmart doesn’t just implement the lowest price right away, Blakeman said, “This tool is in place for the chance that there is a lower advertised price out there.”
Here’s how the tool works: A customer has to set up an account on http://www.walmart.com, log onto the Savings Catcher page and type in the number on their receipt.
Savings Catcher compares prices of every item on the receipt to a database of advertised prices of competitors that’s provided by an undisclosed third party. The tool doesn’t apply to general merchandise like clothing or electronic gadgets.
Walmart prices are matched to stores based on geographic location. For example, in Atlanta, Walmart compares prices to nearly 20 rivals, including Aldi, CVS, Food Lion, Target and Dollar General.
Any difference in prices is put on a Walmart online gift card. Customers can accumulate savings or use the credit immediately. They can redeem in stores or online by printing out the gift card receipt.
Cal State San Bernardino Marketing Professor Victoria Seitz warned consumers there’s a price to be paid for using an app like this.
“That price is your privacy. They’re going to know about your shopping habits,” she said.
Ken Perkins, president of retail research firm Retail Metrics LLC, said the move will “put pressure on everyone else to follow suit.” But he and other industry watchers voiced concerns that the tool doesn’t compare prices of online retailers.
Meanwhile, Walmart said it wants to see how competitors and customers respond to the program, but it doesn’t have any plans to add online stores to the test.
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