updated 02:55 pm EST, Wed January 4, 2012
Part of move toward improving internal Mobile Labs
Walmart has bought out Small Society, a mobile app developer currently based in Portland, Oregon, reports say. While mostly unknown to the public, the developer is responsible for a number of high-profile apps. A partial resume includes Amazon, Starbucks, Zipcar, Live Nation, Whole Foods, and the 2008 Obama election campaign.
Small Society will become part of Walmart's Mobile Labs, which the retailer is hoping will help change the shopping experience. In recent times Walmart has already bought several other developers, including Kosmix, OneRiot, and Grabble. It has also hired Yahoo's former technical standards community leader, Eran Hammer-Lahav, to serve as a senior architect on the web services layer of its mobile platform.
Hammer-Lahav says that Walmart is "focused on building amazing apps for all the major platforms that are not just mobile catalogs or lite versions of the web store, but change the way customers interact with the brand; from organizing your shopping list based on where the items are in the store you just walked into, to giving you more shopping options while at the store, to highlighting promotions and reviews as you drive through the aisles."
He adds that there are "so many trivial features" still missing from shopping apps, and Walmart's in particular. "Like knowing how much money the shopping cart is going to cost you before you check out, like standing in front of 10 different kind of canned beans and reading reviews or getting the 'people who bought other stuff in your cart like this brand.' Opening an app and choosing 'roasted chicken' and getting all the ingredients added to your list, or alternatively, showing you how much it will cost to just buy it prepared. Or telling you how much ketchup you probably have left at home based on your past shopping history, since no one has the time to check everything before they go to the store. That's without even thinking about this much -- just based on my own retail pain. Getting to build stuff like that for 140 million weekly shoppers is mind blowing."