Self-Scanning

Remember when you pumped your own gas then stood in line to pay at the little booth? (This doesn't apply in NJ where the state mandates full-service. It takes twice as long to get gas but keeps people employed.) Then pay-at-the-pump was introduced and more control was handed to the customer along with a few more steps to perform. This was a great trade-off and win-win for both the retailer and the customer. On the rare occurrence when I stop at a station that doesn't have pay-at-the-pump, I just keep driving.

A few years back I had a similar experience in a Swedish grocery store. When you walk into the store, you insert your loyalty card in a machine that unlocks a scanner. As you add things to your cart, you scan them. Then there's really no need for a checkout (although there are random audits) and time is saved.

Retailer benefits: less labor, opportunity to offer electronic coupons, less need for price tags
Customer benefits: running total, coupons, faster checkout

AA047332.jpgAgain, it seems like a win-win. Self checkout really only helps the retailer, since the customer has to scan each item during checkout. The customer doesn't really save any time. But with a portable scanner that goes with the cart, there are more benefits.

Unfortunately, portable scanners never took off in the US. One might think LP stopped its adoption, but I don't think shrink is really the problem since the service is only offered to loyal customers and random audits tend to keep people honest. As reported by the Hartford Courant, Stop & Shop is experimenting with portable scanners, but the reviews are mixed.

In today's market, I think retailers will need to offer multiple ways in which to shop. For grocers, this means supporting traditional checkout, self-checkout, portable scanners, and home delivery. This increases the burden on IT to keep it all working, but should lower labor costs, and increase customer satisfaction.

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David Dorf, Sr Director Technology Strategy for Oracle Retail, shares news and ideas about the retail industry with a focus on innovation and emerging technologies.


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