Checkout is the last opportunity a retailer has to make a positive impression on a shopper. Yet new research confirms the majority of checkout experiences today end in frustration. By addressing acute front-of-store pain points, retailers will be able to boost customer satisfaction ratings while encouraging longer, more frequent visits.
A study conducted online by Harris Poll and commissioned by Digimarc Corporation in June found an overwhelming majority (88 percent) of U.S. adults want their store checkout experience to be faster. A combined 50 percent name slow checkout speeds and long lines as their top grievances.
Adding to a shopper’s disappointment upon checkout is a lack of quality human interaction and perceived gratitude. A majority (61 percent) agree that clerks focus most on scanning items and less on finding out if they're satisfied. And a large group (30 percent) say they feel like a burden to the clerk and other customers when they have a full cart.
The survey also confirms that self-checkout (which nearly three-quarters have avoided) could be more appealing if technical problems were reduced. Of those who avoid self-checkout, 43 percent cited technical or barcode scanning difficulties as reasons they avoid those lanes.
One root cause lies at the center of all of these poor shopper experiences: barcode deficiencies. The requirement that each item be passed individually and oriented “just right” for the scanner delays checkout, creating longer lines and wait times. It requires the clerk’s undivided attention and discourages shoppers from checking themselves out.
What’s needed is a better approach to item identification. One response being adopted is the Digimarc Barcode, which takes the same information in the visible UPC code and replicates it invisibly across all surfaces of a package, even with variable weight labels. A cereal box, for example, contains hundreds of these invisible barcodes. A grocery checker no longer has to reorient each package to align the traditional UPC code with the point-of-sale scanner. Now packages can fly across the scanner, significantly improving the number of items scanned per minute. The embedding of these barcodes doesn't require special inks and can be used with any printing process or packaging substrate.
By removing the issues of barcode mistakes at self-checkout, shoppers gain confidence and are more willing to head to those lanes, further lessening traffic to clerk-assisted queues. That creates a ripple effect throughout the store, giving staff more time to greet customers, help in the aisles, restock and maintain the store appearance.
What makes the idea of the package as a barcode also disruptive for both store and national brands is that the same invisible barcode serves as a new marketing channel both in-aisle and post-purchase. Consumers simply point their smartphones at any side of a package and they're instantly connected to a rich, brand-defined mobile experience. (The package doesn’t even need to be lifted from the shelf, unlike a reverse-side UPC symbol or QR code.) From basic information (e.g., product health and nutritional information) to seasonal and personalized offers (e.g., recipes, how-to videos, promotional offers, etc.), the package-as-barcode turns every item into an opportunity for direct engagement. Retailers and brands are able to review scan data to better understand intent, shopper trends and opportunities for improvement.
Retailers can make critical customer satisfaction gains by eliminating the search for the traditional, visible barcode. This will shorten checkout lines and remove the barriers to an easy self-checkout. Employee satisfaction and perceived store brand value will rise in lockstep with these improvements, with staff shifting their focus from scanning to delivering higher quality customer service.
Larry Logan is the chief marketing officer of Digimarc, a provider of enabling technologies that create digital identities for all forms of media and many everyday objects.