Last year, bold projections indicated self-checkout kiosks may become a thing of the past. After a self-service boom, leading grocery retailers announced a shift in their strategies, opting to focus on better customer service. But a year later, it seems that self-checkout, for the most part, has survived – perhaps because shoppers have defined improved service as including convenient checkout alternatives.
It seems self service is here to stay. However, uncooperative touch screen monitors and technology glitches can create long wait times. To ease this frustration, there’s a new mantra for the CPG industry: no lines ever. Leveraging recent advances in mobile technology, retailers are introducing new ways to pay.
In other retail sectors, mobile payment systems are already proving they may eventually eliminate traditional cash registers. At cutting-edge retailers like Apple, customers can walk up to any iPad-clad employee and pay anywhere on the shop floor. Many smaller retailers have adopted Square, a mobile payment service that expects to process $6 billion in payments this year. Starbucks and several apparel retailers are experimenting with similar systems.
The CPG industry is no exception to this modernization game, and has plans to go mobile as well. Walmart is testing a “Scan & Go” program that lets shoppers use their iPhones to scan products as they drop them into their carts. Customers then download their list at a payment kiosk. To expand this process beyond the world’s largest retailer, QThru, a smartphone app that works the same way, is present in Myers Group grocery stores, after a successful pilot program at a supermarket in the Seattle area.
As more shoppers embrace technology, mobile payments may do more than shorten lines. Apps capable of syncing to loyalty card programs and digital coupons may make it easier for customers to save. They could also serve as a differentiator for successful early adopters, and ultimately increase brand loyalty. Many shoppers will view updated technology that shortens lines and turns them on to savings as the ultimate in customer service.
Other shoppers may feel the retailer is fobbing them off to a machine and view mobile payments as yet another technology designed to cut costs by eliminating personal interaction.
Before investing in a mobile checkout system, retailers should evaluate their shopper base to gauge its potential for success. As not all shoppers are equally tech savvy, retailers should decide if a large enough portion of shoppers would prefer mobile payment options. SymphonyIRI’s DigitaLink research segments customers based on their digital habits, attitudes towards technology, and use of mobile devices. Applying DigitaLink or conducting similar segmentation can help make the decision to “mobilize.”
As I discussed in a blog about self-checkouts last year, each shopper has a preference as to how they pay. To prevent shopper confusion, until more shoppers embrace mobile technology, perhaps retailers’ best bet is to provide multiple checkout options.
What do you think? How do you see this trend at play in retail environments? What is your retail outlet doing to embrace mobile technology?