Walmart tweaking terms of Savings Catcher app

As of Oct. 29 Walmart customers will not be able to scan a paper receipt into the Savings Catcher app. Walmart’s mobile payment system — Walmart Pay — must be used at checkout to connect the Savings Catcher app. The makes smartphone ownership a requirement among those who use Savings Catcher.

Since Walmart unveiled its Savings Catcher app in mid-2014 the retailer has made several changes to the shopping tool designed to help customers save money. This recent change comes on the heels of another tweak made by Walmart earlier this year when it required cash rewards accumulated in the system to be automatically transferred into a Savings Catcher eGift card each time they are earned. Walmart also began offering an auto redeem feature that transfers the Savings Catcher rewards directly to its Walmart Pay app. Because Walmart Pay is the platform consumers redeem their savings, Walmart said this move further streamlines the process.

Initially, consumers were allowed to accrue Savings Catcher funds and then transfer to an e-gift card at their leisure for spending at a late date. Walmart scrapped that option along with the choice to transfer to the BlueBird card, as of Feb 1. The BlueBird money card in conjunction with American Express allowed shoppers the flexibility to spend their Savings Catcher refunds elsewhere, now the funds must be spent at Walmart.

Walmart initially allowed price matching against bakery items, fresh produce and weighted meat. But that was abandoned in February 2015 as the retailer cited lack consistent bar coding on those category items made it difficult to apply the savings. Walmart also allowed toys sold during the holiday season to be eligible, but that was abandoned after year one.

Walmart has said it doesn’t expect consumers overall will object to the Walmart Pay requirement given the popularity and high repeat usage of the mobile app.

Consumers canvassed by Talk Business & Politics in stores and online have said they use Savings Catcher app less than in the beginning because of the restrictions. One consumer said he received big savings when shopping for diapers, but once diapers were no longer of the list the savings dwindled to naught. Another consumer said when Walmart quit matching fresh produce prices against Aldi she abandoned the app, opting instead to make those purchases at Aldi. Other consumers said they choose to use the shopping app Ibotta because it does provide cash back which can spent anywhere.

There are at least a dozen apps like Ibotta which help consumers earn cash for shopping. Checkout 51 works like Ibotta which offers hundreds of coupons within the app. The consumer selects the offer, makes the purchase and uploads the receipt to receive the cash back. Checkout 51 allows shoppers to make the purchases at multiple retailers, whereas Ibotta has the consumer choose the retailer to see the specific cash back offers for that retailer. Ebates is another app that also allows for cash back specific to purchases at grocery retailers such as Walmart, Sam’s Clubs and Safeway.

Recent research from marketing group Valasis indicates consumers are interested in using coupons or mobile shopping apps to earn cash rewards when grocery shopping. Roughly 93% of those surveyed by Valasis said they use coupons or promotional offers when buying groceries, compared with 68% who used them for dining in restaurants, and 62% who seek savings on healthcare items. One-third of respondents said they use coupons and promotions for travel and 20% do so when buying prescription drugs with apps such as Goodrx.

The Valasis Purse String report also found 32% of consumer were interested in receiving coupons and discounts via their mobile devices. Millennials indexed higher at 48%, while parents and busy moms indexed at 42%. Being able to use coupons is a big reason why 65% said they choose to shop in stores, rather than online. The value-conscious shoppers are most loyal to stores they shop when there are rewards and personalized offers.

While Walmart Pay is growing in popularity among retail shoppers, a year ago just 5.1% of shoppers were using the app. In comparison, Apple Pay had 5.5% usage rates among shoppers where the payment form was accepted.

But as Walmart continues to add more services within the app like Savings Catcher, auto prescription refill and money transfers. usage is expected to increase. Walmart has said the biggest hurdle is getting people to set up the payment system. But once they use Walmart Pay, it becomes their currency choice for shopping in stores.

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