On Monday shoppers at US grocery store chain Stop & Shop can scan their purchases using their Android or iPhone app called ‘Scan It!‘ developed by Modiv Media. The shopper begins by scanning their Shop & Stop loyalty card with their iPhone’s camera. The app uses the camera to scan the bar codes of items the shopper adds to their shopping bags. The purchases are totaled through the app and the shopper checkouts using their debit or credit card without unloading or interacting with a cashier. It’s an honor system, but the store will do random checks to make sure shoppers are scanning and paying for everything in their bags.
The smartphone apps build upon the existing ‘Scan-It!’ technology that previously required proprietary hand-held scanners, and more importantly lowers the cost of the system per store from $80,000 to only $7,000. Relevant offers can be sent to the phone based on the shopper’s previous purchasing habits. The system can use the store’s wi-fi network to locate to determine where in the use is in the store and send additional relevant offers around the immediate area.
The first question that always pops into my mind with these technologies is, “Do shoppers really want this?”. It seems like it would take twice as long to do and shopping if I have to stop, turn on my phone and app, scan the code and then move on to the next thing on my list. Not to mention deal with all the tips and special offers (I assume I can turn those off or set a limit). After watching the Scan It! demo video, I’m thinking that all this activity would slow down the shopping experience even more than it is now.
I know from talking to people that design store flow that slowing down the shopping experience is not a good thing. They design a store specifically for flow, with the idea of getting an ideal number of shoppers through within a defined time period, and even if a few of those shoppers are stopping to scan items as they shop, or to consider offers, crisscrossing the store to take advantage of related product offers, the whole shopping flow will bog down.
I do believe that large grocery stores will eventually have a self-shopping experience but its not going to include busy shoppers visually scanning each item with their smartphone. A method of scanning items using a contactless system is a much better solution. Items that are added or removed from a shopper’s cart are automatically totaled with a final transaction occurring as the shopper exits the store – and the amount of the purchase is removed from a user’s account according to pre-defined methods.
The intelligent shopping experience has always been the dream of futurists, allowing shoppers to move freely from store to store without having to reach into the wallets and purses for cash or a credit card. I for one would love to see store employees freed up to assist customers rather than spend time tapping buttons and making change.