Walmart's U.S. customers can now shop online without needing a bank card.

Walmart’s new “Pay with Cash” program, enabling U.S. customers to shop online without having to use a bank card, is an interesting manifestation of one of our trends for 2012, Navigating the New Normal. We forecast that with developed-world economies in rough shape, more brands in more categories would find more ways to accommodate cost-sensitive consumers, via stripped-down offerings, smaller sizes and so on. Walmart’s program, aimed at the unbanked or underbanked, allows shoppers to place an order online, where inventory is much wider than in stores, and then pay in cash at a Walmart store within 48 hours. Items are then shipped or sent to the store for pickup.

“Many of our customers shop paycheck to paycheck” and “don’t have the means” to a bank card, said’s president and CEO in a release. The company notes that 1 in 4 U.S. households have no bank account or credit card or have limited banking options, per 2009 data from the FDIC, and cites 2011 research findings that a wide majority of these consumers are online.

A similar approach is common in India, where “cash on delivery” is an option for the many who have Internet access but no credit card, or are still uncomfortable sharing their credit card info online. (Almost two-thirds of Flipkart’s customers pick COD, according to an interview with the CEO of India’s biggest e-commerce brand; see today’s post on our site AnxietyIndex for a look at Flipkart’s marketing approach.) These types of solutions will become increasingly common as spending in developed markets continues to shift to the high and low ends, and we’ll likely be seeing more brands taking inspiration from tactics in emerging regions.