By Cheryl Lesniak
Traditional self-checkout kiosks found at countless grocers and box stores across the nation have become a mainstay at big name merchants, making shorter work of daily errands. So it comes as no surprise that, after years of witnessing the convenience these self-checkouts serve, many retailers are using the concept as a launching pad for even better and more innovative programs to enhance the consumer experience.
The following examples showcase the best of nontraditional self-checkout processes that have been introduced to consumers in the recent year.
Kroger’s Scan, Bag, Go
According to Progressive Grocer’s recent 85th Annual Report of the Grocery Industry, 24.3% of grocers are now offering in-store mobile product scanning compared to 8.5% from last year’s report. This double-digit increase highlights the quick adoption of scan and pay systems in the grocery industry, with Kroger being a popular example because of its objective to roll out its Scan, Bag, Go program to 400 stores in 2018.
The program allows customers to use a handheld scanning device or a mobile app on their phone to scan and bag items as they grocery shop. Participants can easily pay at the store’s self-checkout area or, in the future, directly through the app. Extra perks include keeping a running order total, access to weekly sales ads and receiving digital coupons.
The obvious benefit of this program falls in line with the big trend in retail over the last couple years: convenience to the customer. With e-commerce providing the ultimate in frictionless shopping experiences, consumers want the same simple and speedy checkout to which they’ve grown accustomed.
Not only does scan and go technology provide this, but it also offers many other advantages to both the customer and retailer. Digital receipts and coupons save consumers the hassle and retailers the money, while a post entitled “The rise of scan and go technology and how it works” on Rambus.com also states a benefit as “[p]roximity-based in-store advertising, pushed out as notifications to shoppers’ phones, can adapt displays and offers to customers’ individual preferences as they approach different beacons in the store.”
Since Kroger’s Scan, Bag, Go pilot program started last year, feedback has been positive, and the grocery retailer has continued with its plans to roll out the program across the country.
Walmart’s Check Out With Me
In a recent press release, Walmart announced it’s testing a new program called Check Out With Me at more than 350 of the store’s Lawn & Garden Centers across the nation.
The goal behind the service is to ease a pain point often associated with purchasing items from the lawn and garden area of a big box store—the time expended to transport awkward or messy items such as plants, mulch or dirt, through the physical store to checkout.
To address this checkout friction point, Walmart associates at the select Lawn & Garden Centers are equipped with devices and Bluetooth printers to ring up a customer, accept payment, and provide a receipt on the spot.
The simplicity of the process not only saves patrons time, but allows them to carry bulky items straight to their cars instead of waiting in a traditional checkout.
As of now, Walmart has only confirmed plans to roll out the service to the 350 stores; however, many speculate this program could be replicated within Walmart stores to offer convenience and a faster checkout to store patrons.
There’d be no way to write an article about nontraditional checkouts without citing the most apparent example of all. In January of this year, Amazon unveiled a shopping experience like no other with the opening of its first Amazon Go store in Seattle.
If you think scan and pay makes checking out easy, you haven’t experienced Amazon Go’s automatic checkout. As commonly reported, Amazon has been discreet about the details, but the overall system works with an array of miniature cameras and special technology that recognize items being taken from the shelves. When customers enter the store, they walk through gates that confirm they have the mobile app. Once they select their purchases, they simply walk back out and their mobile app is charged for the items taken.
Aside from the novelty of a checkout experience that hasn’t been done before, the store has garnered quite a bit of attention because of the future impact this technology could have on the retail experience.
With Amazon’s reach, many wonder if we’ll see a program like this at Amazon-owned Whole Foods (so far, reps have denied this) or offered as a service to other businesses looking to integrate a new level of convenience to retail customers. Time will tell, of course, but recent reports show the company is planning to expand to the San Francisco and Chicago markets, which likely indicates the initial metrics must be favorable at the inaugural store.
We’re seeing once novel options like self-checkout aisles become the more traditional predecessor to innovative programs from Kroger, Walmart and Amazon that offer convenience to customers at the point of sale. And as the technology constantly evolves and inspires, all grocers and big box retailers will need to take note as they invest to improve their own customers’ experiences.
Cheryl Lesniak is integrated marketing manager for Frank Mayer and Associates.