Several months isn’t a long time, but it’s enough to totally transform the grocery store experience. Because of COVID-19, many shoppers who used to go to a grocery store every few days or even every day are suddenly thinking twice about going at all.
A typical trip to the supermarket involved looking at and touching a bunch of items (even if you didn’t plan on buying them), interacting with employees who could help you find items throughout the store, and using a checkout lane or dedicated self-checkout machine that had an endless line of people touching it.
That approach to shopping doesn’t make people feel comfortable anymore. As shoppers begin to experience the convenience of contactless grocery delivery and curbside pickup, getting them in the store again is going to mean bringing the contactless experience inside.
The need for contactless retail is the new reason for grocery retailers to deploy self-scanning and scan-and-go services. Retailers have a responsibility to keep their customers and employees safe by offering contactless shopping options that minimize human interaction.
Contactless retail makes it possible to maintain distance from others and feel confident about walking into a store. With this strategy in place, customers can use their smartphones to select, learn about, and purchase products, while employees can do their everyday tasks with a smartphone app.
Faster, Easier and Frictionless Shopping
Before the pandemic, the simplicity and speed of mobile self-scanning and scan-and-go was already embraced by major supermarkets and retail chains warmly, as well as welcomed by shoppers.
Self-scanning with a smartphone is a smart choice for customers who want to save time. A SOTI survey showed that 66 percent of shoppers preferred mobile self-scanning and self-checkout, with 67 percent saying retailers that used more mobile technology saved them time. According to Global Market Insights, the worldwide self-checkout market was forecast to surpass $4 billion by 2024. Post-COVID-19, that forecast will undoubtedly rise.
With the right high-performance computer vision software, any camera-equipped smart device can transform into a powerful barcode scanner. Retailers use the technology to let shoppers scan barcodes using their smartphones and then either pay for goods at a self-checkout kiosk or through the app.
Cashierless stores that mimic the Amazon Go concept are made possible with the self-scanning mobile app approach. Instead of spending huge sums of money to install cameras and sensors in stores, retailers can get started immediately by enabling customers to use the smartphones they already have.
Cut Waiting, Increase Space, Protect Revenues
Since COVID-19, retailers are looking for ways to reduce the waiting time that many are experiencing just to get into stores. These long lines result in lost revenue, either from customers going elsewhere or from the lower throughput of customers in stores.
The goal is to create more space and reduce the amount of time each customer spends in the store during each shopping trip. Scan-and-go shopping is an obvious tool that can help — the retailer will benefit from the speed of shopping as much as the customer enjoys it.
Traditional dedicated scanning machines are bulky and pose a hygiene risk for shoppers, not to mention the extra burden for retailers to manage adequate cleaning throughout the day. As a result, some retailers have suspended use of these devices and opened up even more space in stores.
Retain and Win More Customers
Self-scanning was and still is a powerful way to boost customer engagement. In an increasingly data-driven industry, self-scanning is also a valuable source of customer behavior data for analysis. Tracking app usage alongside regular store key performance indicators is a good way of assessing performance in many areas: store traffic, checkout wait times, buying patterns, basket sizes, revenue, costs, and customer satisfaction can all be captured and measured.
Expert advice is needed to deploy self-scanning and scan-and-go successfully. As with any customer service, user experience is the key. A crucial factor is the scanning software’s performance — it must work the first time, every time on any mobile device model your customers are using.
Brick-and-mortar grocery retailers will have to accelerate their digital transformations to compete with online shopping and meet the new demands for safety. Ultimately, the need to blend the physical and digital worlds remains stronger than ever in our new contactless society.
Christian Floerkemeier is chief technology officer, vice president of product and co-founder of Scandit. Scandit's award-winning mobile computer vision software enables barcode scanning, text and object recognition for enterprise apps, and delivers real-time insights through augmented reality overlay.