The queue-free checkout is dominating retail headlines these days. Amazon's recent deal with Whole Foods Market, when combined with the online giant's visionary Amazon Go concept, has everyone imagining a new and improved process across the organic chain’s hundreds of stores.
The Amazon-Whole Foods news joined the mix of some other latest headlines, from “First look: Walmart’s next-gen test stores” to “End of the supermarket queue as Barclaycard plans checkout-free shopping using mobile phones.” All of these stories point to the idea of a checkout-free future where stores with long lines will be stuck in the slow lane. Drawing consumers into the store is a primary and ongoing goal, and creating seamless processes and empowering consumers via their smartphones is an appealing way to meet this objective.
With this solution comes plenty of benefits for both consumers and retailers alike. For consumers, wait times are drastically reduced, creating a better shopping experience through increased convenience. Consumers simply check in by using a QR code to connect with the store’s POS system and just scan items as they go, without associate support. There’s no line or hassle necessary. With these solutions, it’s obvious that the power of the smartphone is already here, and it’s up to retailers to take full advantage of what it has to offer. It is a new and exciting method of shopping that will have consumers welcoming the high-tech future of retail.
At the same time, retailers can use this system to collect data and understand real-time, in-store customer behavior. The solution not only gives insights to the consumers’ purchases, but it also improves efficiency of their omnichannel strategy, all while showcasing the retailers’ consumer-facing innovation. There’s no question that eliminating the scanning process is becoming a more viable and advantageous possibility than ever before.
There is a lot of revolutionary potential that this solution offers. Even though this technology has already been around for years, it’s hard to ignore just how fast this trend is growing now. But as more and more stores leverage this existing technology, it’s important to keep in mind two important factors that are necessary to fuel successful adoption of this solution – the device and the scalability of the platform.
Power of the Smartphone
We’re all aware of how attached people are to their smartphones nowadays, so why not turn those devices into an ally? Retailers need tools that are minimally disruptive and that are convenient to implement and convenient to use. A mobile customer engagement platform does just that by offering a wealth of consumer-friendly capabilities that utilizes the consumer’s smartphone, creating an easy transition to a queue-free checkout process.
By using smartphones, retailers can use their enterprise infrastructure to deliver personalized promotions, loyalty programs and award redemptions to the consumer. Stores can provide unique offers to consumers based on location and preferences. Vouchers and awards can also add a new level of excitement and value to consumers. Engaging shoppers in-store with these methods via smartphones is becoming a business-critical engagement strategy that can improve operational and merchandising efficiency at every step during the path to purchase.
Additionally, the biggest benefit of this solution is that it’s already seamlessly integrated with existing POS systems, avoiding another application island in the store. Using smartphones and the retailer’s current infrastructure make the transition smooth and hassle-free. Of course, all of this is as secure and simple as using traditional mobile payment solutions widely available today.
The Value of Familiarity
The second important aspect to remember is the value of familiarity. Beyond the near ubiquity of smartphone adoption among consumers today, there’s something comforting about entering your favorite store and knowing exactly what to expect even when you’re miles from home. For example, when you walk into an Apple store, no matter if it’s in your hometown or halfway across the world, you can always count on the familiar “magical” elements that embody the brand’s retail experience. Each store has plenty of well-known blue shirt specialists and valued Geniuses behind the bar, helping to assist with problems from technical failures to unspoken water damages. And each store uses the same checkout process, utilizing smartphones wherever you are as a payment device rather than having to endure another long checkout line.
This universal experience is exactly what retailers need to replicate in their stores, especially with the rise of queue-free stores. Big corporations and megastores are taking the leap towards using this technology, and if they want to successfully implement it in the long-run, they must consider how consumers can get accustomed to the change.
The key is to add a degree of familiarity and to have a comprehensive system that delivers these capabilities at all store locations. When I walk into one Walmart and use their Scan & Go technology, I should be able to go into another Walmart location miles away and still expect the same structure in place. Even though the technology is already available, large retailers have yet to apply a queue-free checkout solution that is scalable and universal so that consumers feel and expect to be at home wherever they go.
As the queue-free checkout trend continues forward, stores and corporations will be stepping up to compete in this transformative future of retail. It’s time to put shoppers and their mobile phones in the driver’s seat with the technology we have today and implement it on a highly scalable platform that can offer consumers the familiarity they need. The process will become a part of the shoppers’ experience and eventually will embody the organization’s identity, making it all the more necessary to make the process as simple and stress-free as possible.
Michael Jaszczyk is chief technology officer and U.S. CEO, GK Software, where he manages the development of the company’s software solutions, drawing on a wealth of experience, both relating to software development for the retail sector and as a manager within international IT companies.