Grocery shoppers want convenience, and they want choices. These facts aren’t new. But buyer expectations—and how they define both convenience and choice—aren’t the same as they used to be.
True, some consumers still enjoy reading tabloid headlines and browsing racks of candy while waiting in the checkout lane. By and large, however, the personalization of digital technology has changed the way people shop and pay for purchases. This is especially true for Millennials and Gen-Z, who prioritize experiences over possessions. They expect to buy groceries with the same ease they associate with shopping for clothes, electronics, and entertainment using their connected mobile devices.
Self-checkout kiosks have been a fact of life for consumers since the 1990s. Consequently, retail grocery chains that haven’t installed them appear archaic to modern shoppers. A single eye-opening statistic from Phonoic’s 2019 Store of the Future Report backs up what most grocery operators and owners know from observation. More than half of consumers surveyed say they will look for other ways to shop for groceries if the stores they visit don’t incorporate new technologies into the shopping experience.
The crucial question now becomes: What are these technologies?
For grocery chains that want to meet the technology demands of the majority of their market, self checkout provides the easiest point-of-entry. Many consumers are familiar with how the process works and expect to have that option. Even customers who usually use a traditional checkout lane may opt for the DIY option to avoid a line.
Other trends support investment in self-checkout technology. Rising labor costs are cutting into retail outlets’ already thin profit margins. A half-dozen states have passed $15 minimum wage laws, with more expected to follow suit. But self checkout can help grocery stores staff more intelligently.
Consider that one attendant can oversee four self-checkout machines. The work of scanning and bagging is passed on to customers. Moreover, younger customers consider this an elevation of the customer service experience. They prefer to have full control of the buying process, from end to end (or store shelf to home pantry).
This brick-and-mortar/online shopping hybrid allows shoppers to browse a store’s products online, fill a virtual shopping cart, and either have their groceries delivered or bagged and ready for pickup at the store.
What is the chief appeal of this model? Online shoppers are used to being able to consult vast volumes of product information when they shop. In fact, these consumers are unlikely to purchase anything—including groceries—unless they’ve researched it first. Click-and-collect allows you to compare prices, nutritional information, and customer reviews, all available in a virtual environment.
Once selections have been made, an in-store shopper (or “picker”) gathers the items for the buyer. Some systems even supply the buyer with a direct connection to their picker so they can clarify their needs—organic or regular?—and choose substitute items should anything on their list be out of stock. Whether the service is fee- or subscription-based, or the cost is factored into the base click-and-collect pricing, such concierge services represent a new revenue stream for most traditional grocery retailers.
Scan-and-go technology renders the rituals associated with traditional grocery checkout all but obsolete. Here, onsite shoppers scan product barcodes as they place items in their cart. (For produce and bulk items, self-service scales print scannable labels.) Stores may provide portable equipment for this purpose, or customers may use an app on their own mobile devices to scan these barcodes.
Once shoppers are ready to check out, they can bring the device to a POS register and swipe a card on the device to pay. Or they can link to an online payment system such as Apple Pay or Google Pay. A clerk stationed at the front of the store can verify the shopper’s payment by viewing the receipt on the device.
Scan-and-go can radically accelerate the checkout process. Faster foot traffic can lead to more business. This is especially true for stores that experience frequent challenges processing transactions at high volume. Meanwhile, customers like scan-and-go because they know exactly what they are paying for each item. It eliminates surprises at the cash register and generates detailed digital receipts. And the latter is equally valuable to those digital transforming store owners looking to leverage every last bit of business intelligence at their disposal.
Rather than asking customers to serve as their own cashiers, mobile checkout moves that function out onto the sales floor—or at least outside a traditional checkout lane. Using this line busting technique, store clerks can pick out grocery shoppers with only a few items in their basket. The clerk then uses a mobile device to scan their items and allow the customer to pay, all without the customers having to go through the line. The shopper then shows their receipt as they leave, allowing customers to bypass front-of-store registers altogether.
Besides the convenience mobile checkout offers your customers, it allows quick relief of congested lines during rush periods when many shoppers stop after work for a few items for dinner. It’s also a great opportunity for clerks to interact with customers in a personal way, while allowing them to observe, in real time, who is buying what, when, and in what quantities.
Are modern grocery checkout technologies playing a role in your stores?
With any of these solutions, the key lies in an implementation that both reflects current customer preferences and anticipates emerging customer behaviors—and gives you the power to influence them.
That said, the immediate return on investment you are likely to see from these systems is increased throughput, courtesy of a more efficient checkout process. These modernized processes include built-in loss-prevention measures, such as minimizing losses due to scanning errors and curtailing sweethearting and other forms of theft.
You can unlock even more value from self checkout, click-and-collect, scan-and-go, and mobile checkout by connecting shoppers to your store via their own mobile device. Doing so creates an omnichannel complete with loyalty programs, store coupons, shopper preferences, payment options, and receipts, all accessible with a single tap or swipe of a card.
Should you still budget for those shoppers who may be wary of new technology, or who enjoy the social aspect of chatting with the cashier as their items are scanned and bagged? Absolutely. TRUNO can help you navigate the ever-evolving customer behavior landscape, identify the best solutions for your grocery store or chain, and help you integrate new technology with your existing systems.