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Mobile Self Checkout - The Future Is Now

Supermarkets have started to pilot an awesome concept which will proliferate into high street fashion retail within a couple of years, perhaps even sooner. The concept orbits around getting customers to use their smartphones to scan and self checkout their shopping in real-time without going to a physical checkout queue using the retailers smartphone app. There’s no reason why this shouldn’t work in fashion retail, in fact it would work brilliantly, it just takes some vision, exploration, technology integration testing and know-how. The upside is nothing short of game-changing. The high street retailer that cracks it first will deservedly deserve some serious kudos.

Thinking about it, what are the possible advantages in having your customers standing in a queue twiddling their thumbs wishing their was an easier, faster way to pay? Worse still, how many of those customers avoid your stores at key shopping times because they know the queues are going to be horrendous, could there be a worse reason to lose share of basket or would be loyal customers? Where do they go instead? How many of those customers tell their friends and family that they should do the same? The process doesn’t work, it’s broken and it’s affecting your bottom line. My guess is that you know about this problem already and are probably throwing more staff at tills in attempt to tackle it. Staff who would be better utilised engaging with your shoppers on an interpersonal basis rather than robotically operating checkouts. Right now this is the best response, but for how long?

A study undertaken in September 2016 by First Data the global payment technology solutions giant polled 2000 UK shoppers and uncovered that Britons find retail queues more irritating than any other queue for services or goods with only 8% of respondents saying they’d wait the longest in a retail store queue. A parallel YouGov survey that questioned over 2,000 UK consumers found that 7 in 10 Brits would be discouraged from making a purchase if there were long queues. Remarkably although Millennials are generally painted as the impatient “generation now”, the findings suggest that this age group are in fact more tolerant of queues with 51% of those aged 18 – 24 would queue for longer than 10 minutes. Interestingly, just 14% of 18-24 year olds would be very likely to be discouraged by a long queue, compared to 27% of over 55s.

What about front-end impulse purchasing I hear you say? What about it! Front-end impulse purchasing and associated strategies have always had a part to play but it's inevitable that it will become outmoded. In my view the front-end will rapidly become part of the UI of your smartphone app, thats where the impulse purchasing will happen in the future. Real-time smartphone self checkout is happening right now. Utilising self checkout could also keep your customers in store longer and make them happier because they won’t have one eye on the queue, because there wouldn't be a queue. We have all been in stores where there’s an enormous queue that makes us want to leave and come back (if your lucky), where we probably would have stayed and shopped if there hadn’t been a queue. Imagine being able to pay as you shop so there is no reason to worry about queue lengths. The irony is your customers are using their phones in store anyway, why not give them a really good reason that not only makes their lives easier but also enables you to engage with them across the most personal channel.

Imagine if your customers could self checkout & pay simply using their smartphone. Using an app to scan a QR or barcode they could pay in an instant until they see something else they want and repeat the process until they are finished. Using the app to self checkout could deactivate security by informing systems linked to RFID tags so that the customer can leave without any fears of being chased by store security staff. See something you like, you simply scan it and put it into your bag, done. No queue, no waiting, no stress. Sounds like a no-brainer right? It also provides consumers with a real world reason to install a brands app. It saves a shed loads of hassle.

So this all sounds brilliant but it would never happen right? I mean it all sounds a bit far fetched doesn’t it, what about shoplifting, inventory management and replenishment. Now think about this, the Coop the second largest retail group in Switzerland has done it and early indicators are that their customers love it. This is an organisation that has 1,800 stores and 53,000 employees. Use of the Passabene self checkout, self-scanning app has been overwhelmingly successful and is now available in over 100 stores across Switzerland, with more than 280,000 customers having registered.

Disrupting the paradigm even further, NCR the world leader in consumer transaction technologies currently has a patent application for a “whole store scanner” system that has the potential to negate the requirement for traditional checkouts entirely. Their system would use myriads of cameras in each store to help recognise a customer when they enter the store and keep track of items put in or taken out of their shopping cart. There concept would eliminate the need for retailers or shoppers to even scan products. And to check out, shoppers would just pick up their electronic or paper receipt.

The day of pointless spiralling queues is going to be history, its completely inevitable, it will just take the right technology, knitted in the right way. Now is the time to be MVP'ing.