Market Overview

Wal-Mart's New 'Savings Catcher' Automates Price Comparison

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For most consumers, low price is the playing card that trumps all other cards in most shopping scenarios. A new service called “Savings Catcher” has become Wal-Mart's (NYSE: WMT) latest entry in the “We can beat anyone’s price” competition that the company has long promoted as its prime mission on behalf of consumers.

The latest twist involves posting competitor’s prices for more than 80,000 household and food products so consumers can take advantage without having to comparison shop on their own.

In the event Wal-Mart’s price is not the lowest, the shopper receives the difference in the form of a store credit.The “Savings Catcher” service is currently available in Atlanta, Dallas, San Diego, Charlotte, Lexington, Minneapolis, and Huntsville, Alabama.

Related: Report: Amazon May Offer Physical Stores Kindle-Based Checkout This Year

Online retailers such as Amazon are not included in the “Savings Catcher” service. Instead, Wal-Mart checks advertised prices at local retailers in the areas served by the company. Also, the service only applies to household staples like food and home supplies – not televisions and other big-ticket items.

A number of companies including Best Buy, Target, and others offer price matching but unlike Wal-Mart’s new service, require the consumer to bring in proof of a lower local price via a flyer or newspaper ad.

According to The Associated Press, the new service came from a Wal-Mart focus group last year that reacted positively to the idea that Wal-Mart would do the research and post competitor prices.

Not having to do the comparison-shopping in order to benefit from the low-price guarantee was also seen as a huge benefit by members of the focus group.

Wal-Mart’s new service is not unique. Citigroup’s Citibank started a similar service in 2012 that was designed to send Citi Credit Card customers a check for the difference if Citibank found a lower price from an online retailer. Wal-Mart is the first traditional retailer to offer such a service.

USA Today said Wal-Mart declined to say when the program might be rolled out nationwide. The company simply said it hoped the online tool would build more confidence among shoppers that it has the best price.

“Savings Catcher” requires customers to set up an account, log on, and plug in their receipt number. Wal-Mart prices are automatically matched to local stores and any savings calculated, added to the customer’s account and put on a Wal-Mart online gift card.

At the time of this writing, Jim Probasco had no position in any mentioned securities.

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