By David Dorf-Oracle on Apr 13, 2009
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
Again, 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.