Co-founder and CEO of Local Express.
“Scan, pay and go” is a great asset for combating grocers’ current in-store challenges. Customers independently shopping and paying shortens queues, makes up for labor shortages and helps stores keep track of customer data.
There are undoubtedly many advantages of self-serviced shopping — especially as 50% of customers prefer more independent shopping experiences for grocery buying. However, some customers have complained about inefficient systems, problems scanning their products and a general lack of user-friendliness.
The good news is this doesn’t mean grocery stores have to abandon their vision of a more independent customer journey. Planning and testing before deployment can make your scan, pay and go a success.
Scan, Pay And Go Models
Those who have been to the Dutch supermarket Albert Heijn have probably stumbled across the extensive hardware system lending handheld scanning devices at the entrance. The tool has a clear purpose: Customers can instantly scan products and pay for them at a self-guided checkout when walking through the store. Designed to shorten checkout lines, these allow shoppers to get their products and leave without interacting with staff. Stores can even automate personalized product recommendations sent to customers on these devices as they walk through the aisles.
In the U.S., companies like Kroger and Walmart have introduced another user-friendly way to reduce store-customer interaction: scanning add-ons on mobile apps. Using their cellphone cameras, customers can log in to their accounts, scan their purchases and pay for them directly through their phones.
However, rushing to adopt such a solution is not wise. Before stores make investments, they need to examine their customers’ needs and understand which solution fits their facility best.
How To Optimize Hardware Solutions
Start with assessing the initial investment: hardware equipment vs. app-based software.
Both solutions have advantages and disadvantages, and their effective use ultimately depends on the retailer’s customers, budget and size of their store.
With hardware provided by the store, customers may encounter difficulties operating an unfamiliar device. Furthermore, many handheld devices do not work with loyalty cards or coupons. In addition, handheld devices can run out when demand is high or when devices need to be maintained.
To make scanning practical and intuitive, the use of hardware should guide first-time users with a short video or clear instructions. Additionally, stores must choose devices that take advantage of new technologies such as allowing for secure login (QR codes or passwords) or flawlessly recognizing all types of barcodes no matter how wrinkled they are. Technology is constantly changing, so you need to invest and keep up with new technologies. Again, it’s essential not to neglect the maintenance of hardware and plan for wear and tear.
How To Get The Software Solution Right
If you opt for an app on the user’s smartphone, you face slightly different challenges. Not every customer is already familiar with scanning items via smartphones. A user-friendly introductory video/interactive infographic in the app and an FAQ section can help reduce friction for first-time users.
Next, for a completely self-independent journey, people’s devices need to be charged, and the camera and internet connection need to be stable. Some customers may not have a smartphone, and other customers’ batteries could die while purchasing, making them unhappy. To solve this, you can offer free Wi-Fi for the store. Additionally, set up portable charging stations to mitigate common issues.
Challenges Throughout The Shopping Experience
Next, grocery stores need to handle products that customers need to weigh manually, such as fresh produce. To enable smart scanning of those as well, stores need to update their scale technology. Their new investments must allow bar-code scanning and printing — ideally, a digital barcode to be scanned to reduce the eco-footprint.
Furthermore, if customers need to scan a large number of items, they are likely to get confused, miss items or have difficulties keeping track of their scanning status. The solution is to allow self-checkout only for a limited number of items (such as 20).
Ongoing Omnichannel Experience
Customers who receive special offers on items might forget about their discounts while walking through the aisles. Integrating a geofencing system into the scan, pay and go app can enhance location-based marketing. If a customer scans an item, the app can send coupons or reminders to purchase a matching product in the right aisle.
As a store owner, you need to deploy integrated technology solutions that can enable customer logins and, subsequently, collect and conduct sales data analytics across the entire shopping experience.
At The Checkout
How can stores deal with problems that arise further at checkout? In most cases, it will be necessary to check bagged items as customers exit the store. Any new technology — hardware or software — needs to be implemented with appropriate process changes in order to be efficient and effective.
Finally, offering different payment options is essential for the customer experience. Clients should be able to pay directly via an e-wallet and by credit card. If you decide to use hardware, integrating identification methods like ID scans for alcohol or tobacco sales is essential. You can also limit such purchases for self-checkout.
Scan, pay and go will pay off sooner or later, but not every supermarket is ready to implement the new technology right away. Stores need a critical mass of technology-savvy customers to make the investment worthwhile, and they need to make the right considerations before deployment. What we know is that customer buying habits are evolving, and grocers need to adapt.
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