The Checkout Experience and Today’s Shopper

Posted July 23, 2013

Even though the first bar code scan in a retail store took place over 40 years ago, many people still active in the retail industry remember when bar code scanning at the checkout was a novelty; not the norm it is today.  Given the $20,000 price tag of the first grocery store checkout scanner – about $93,000 in today’s dollar – the early technology adopters were truly committed.  Although some naysayers probably thought they should have been committed.

Since then, and especially in the last few years, other technologies have been developed and adapted to improve the retail checkout.  These developments are getting more attention today because Retailers are focused on the importance of an improved in-store shopping experience for their customers.  They are working to keep the in-store experience valuable and relevant as they compete with the online alternatives consumers have at their fingertips.

The traditional checkout has continually evolved with increasingly efficient scanning and throughput with new high performance products like the Magellan 9800i imaging scanner.  This new digital imaging based multi-plane bar code scanner significantly improves the scanning process by reading poorly printed bar codes, reads both 1D and 2D bar codes, and provides an interface point for the shopper to scan their cell phone based mobile coupons.  Datalogic has also developed imaging technology and item recognition software that is able to recognize bulky items on the bottom of the shopping cart without either the cashier or shopper lifting them resulting in a significant reduction of loss through shrink. Other uses for this technology such as automated scanning and personal shopping systems are also improving the checkout process and providing the retailer with new options to customize a flexible and efficient checkout.

Datalogic’s Automated Scanning technology allows shoppers to place items in any orientation on the checkout belt; as the belt moves the items are automatically scanned without being touched by the cashier.  Personal Shopping technology moves the scanning to the point of item selection and is controlled by the shopper using either their smart phone or a retailer supplied mobile device.  Shoppers scan items as they place them into their shopping cart.

With all these checkout choices available to today’s retailer, which checkout method or combination of methods is best?  The fact is that anyone who answers that question without a detailed knowledge of a store’s checkout metrics, desired customer service levels, and checkout costs is simply making a guess.  One thing is certain; it is critical for the retailer to evaluate the checkout experience as a key part of the overall customer satisfaction experience that they want to project as part of their brand.

The checkout is the last in-store impression made on the shopper and it can either reinforce or destroy the consumers shopping experience.

Ideally, the retailer should form a cross-functional team including marketing, operations, finance, IT, and loss prevention to analyze and benchmark the current checkout.  Quantifiable objectives for change that support the retailer’s brand must be identified.  For instance, is the retailer known for great interactive customer service or is the strategic goal low price resulting from low costs and high checkout productivity?  Once the retailer has an initial set of goals for improvement, they can enlist the aid of any of the many available qualified system integrators or consultants to begin developing their checkout of the future.

The end goal should be a checkout that supports and enhances the shopping experience for the retailer’s customer.

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