Walmart brings the ‘quantified self’ to supermarket shopping

Walmart, the world’s largest public company according to this year’s Fortune Global 500 list, is letting its shoppers analyse their own shopping habits data. By scanning barcodes through a new Walmart Savings Catcher app, consumers can see graphs breaking down how they shop and work out the best possible combination of items within a set budget. The retailer’s new programme is the latest in the ‘quantified self’ trend aiming to satisfy customers’ eagerness to analyse their own data themselves, rather than letting brands do it for them.

To use Savings Catcher, shoppers first scan their receipt barcodes using the app. Walmart then compares its prices with those of local competitors and if it finds any lower prices, the difference is refunded. In this sense, the scheme is similar to Sainsbury’s Brand Match. However, Savings Catcher also features other perks, such as archiving and sorting receipts, creating predictive shopping lists, keeping a running price tally of products in the trolley and sending notifications when coupons are available for shopping list items.

Giving consumers access to their data is intended to help them set targets and notice previously unrealised habits. In this sense, Savings Catcher is similar to wearable devices, such as the Apple Watch. Other data-providing wearable devices include Jawbone, Google Glass and Nike FuelBand – we’ve previously discussed some of our favourite wearable devices.

The quantified self not only benefits the consumer, but businesses too. Richer data and insight allows brands to market more efficiently, produce more popular products and communicate more effectively.

Nevertheless, brands must be careful to avoid some potential risks. Exposing too many occasions where other supermarket rivals are cheaper, for example, could put pressure on profit margins and even lead to customer churn. Brands must also provide sufficient reassurance around data collection and privacy concerns – for instance, Apple has declared it is rejecting apps for its HealthKit data programme that store personal data in its iCloud.

If Walmart’s app proves to be a hit, it will surely be replicated by UK supermarkets as well. As consumers gain the chance to analyse their own data for free, it could encourage some to experiment further by purchasing wearable tech, like the Apple Watch. With some wearable devices struggling to penetrate the market, a boost to sales would also prove to be a useful fillip for the quantified self trend.