By Mike Poldino, Motorola Solutions
Unless you have recently upgraded your point-of-sale (POS) systems, chances are the bioptic POS in your grocery store today can only scan 1D bar codes printed on the paper labels placed on items or on paper coupons. While that met the needs of yesterday’s POS, times have changed. And in order to provide your customer with the best possible experience at the POS, your POS needs to change too.
Beyond 1D — the new types of bar codes appearing in your POS lanes
While the majority of the bar codes presented at the POS may still be 1D, two new types of bar codes are also appearing - 1D GS1 DataBar stacked bar codes and 2D bar codes. Why are these bar codes appearing at the POS? The primary reason is that they are capable of holding a lot more information — information that can help streamline your business and improve the consumer’s shopping experience while better protecting their safety. The 1D bar code typically contains just the product SKU number, the GS1 DataBar and 2D bar codes can accommodate additional product details in a space that is much smaller than the average 1D bar code — such as lot number and expiration date. As a result, these types of bar codes are becoming more common on perishables, small items and items where tracking is crucial.
The new bar codes benefit the shopper and grocer alike. It is much easier to locate expired items, helping ensure that only fresh food is on the shelves and enabling the rapid removal of any products that are recalled, protecting consumer safety. In addition, grocers can more readily identify and locate items that are nearing expiration, translating into less time required to put those items on sale, in turn reducing waste. Finally, with more granular inventory information, grocers have a more detailed picture of what is selling, which in turn helps improve the ordering process, ensuring that shoppers find the products they want on the shelves of your store.
But if your POS is equipped with a 1D laser scanner, it will not be able to read any 2D bar codes, and GS1 DataBar codes will present a challenge — they may require multiple passes or may not be able to read the code at all. The result? Cashiers will need to manually enter any bar code they cannot scan, slowing down the POS lane, increasing the chance of errors and translating into longer lines and wait times for your customers.
Beyond the paper bar code label
There are new types of bar codes, and now they are appearing on different surfaces. Until recently, you only needed to be concerned with scanning bar codes printed on paper. But mobile bar codes have taken the world by storm and have been embraced by shoppers for the major convenience they provide. Now, instead of clipping and organizing coupons and carrying plastic loyalty cards, those items can be stored in a mobile phone in the form of electronic bar codes, known as mobile bar codes. This allows shoppers to always have everything they need in the one device that is virtually always with them — their mobile phones.
But in order to scan these mobile bar codes, your POS must be able to scan bar codes that are displayed on the screen of a mobile device as well as paper labels. And if it can’t, then the customer must hand their mobile phone to the cashier to manually enter the data into the POS resulting in shoppers frustrated that the technology in their mobile phones is more advanced than the technology in your POS systems. And you incur increased liability — if the cashier accidentally drops the customer’s mobile phone, the customer will expect your store to pay for the damage.
While your outdated bioptic POS can substantially degrade the customer service level at the POS, the solution is easy — upgrade to a next-generation imager-based bioptic POS system. This new generation of POS systems can handle the many different types of bar codes now appearing in your POS lanes — standard 1D bar codes, 1D GS1 DataBar stacked bar codes and 2D bar codes, regardless of whether they are printed on paper or displayed on the screen of a mobile phone. Expandability allows you to add the options you need in your store, such as a handheld scanner that allows cashiers to scan large items in the cart; the integration of your existing or future Checkpoint® or Sensormatic® Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) system; plus an option that allows your customers to self-scan the mobile bar codes on their mobile phones, eliminating the need to hand the phone to the cashier for scanning — and the liability you could incur should the cashier accidentally damage the phone.
The benefits of the updated POS
With an updated POS that can handle every type of bar code presented, you can maintain service quality in the busiest POS lanes:
- Customer service, satisfaction and loyalty are improved.
- Throughput is maximized.
- Lines and wait times are minimized.
- Abandoned sales due to long wait times at the POS are reduced.
- Inventory waste is minimized.
What should you look for in an updated POS system?
The following criteria can help you choose a POS system that will deliver maximum value, providing the performance you want, the service your customers demand and the total cost of ownership (TCO) your business requires:
- Scanning performance: You want first-time, every-time proven scanning, even on bar codes that are damaged, dirty or poorly printed — or on curved surfaces or under plastic wrap.
- Scanning flexibility: Cashiers need to be able to easily scan just about any bar code, including 1D and 2D bar codes that are printed on paper labels or displayed on the screen of a mobile phone.
- Customization: The ability to customize your POS system is crucial to meet your needs today as well as in the future. For example, is there an option that allows customers to be able to scan their own mobile phones instead of hand them off to cashiers? Can you easily add a handheld scanner that allows cashiers to scan large bulky items in a shopping cart, adding to convenience and protecting the customer from injury and the store from liability? Can you integrate the theft-prevention system you have today — or purchase tomorrow?
Overall, make sure you make a great “last impression” in your POS lanes
While first impressions are important, in retail, the last impression can be equally important. With an updated POS at this critical last customer touch point, checkout is fast and smooth even in the busiest POS lanes, leaving your shoppers with a great last impression that will foster increased loyalty and return visits.
Mike Poldino is VP of data capture solutions, Motorola Solutions.