What do shoppers want this holiday season? To skip the checkout line
- Target and Walmart have made skip-checkout technology a core focus during this year's holiday push. Both retailers will let customers check out with employees carrying handheld devices stationed around stores.
- The mobile checkout program is a new introduction for Target, while Walmart's initiative — which will be available in every supercenter by Black Friday — is an expansion of the "Checkout With Me" initiative it began testing in April in Lawn & Garden Centers.
- "With new convenient ways to buy, we’ve never been in a better position to help our customers deliver for their families than this holiday season,” said Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising officer, Walmart U.S. Mark Tritton, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer, Target says, “combined with the unmatched easy ways to shop with us – including new mobile technology that allows guests to skip the line for an even more convenient checkout – we’re confident guests will save time and money."
The countdown is on to Black Friday and retailers are turning to technology to make the in-store experience more convenient. For Target and Walmart, helping shoppers skip the checkout line should boost shopper convenience and extend good tidings that may very well last beyond the holiday season.
After discontinuing its Scan & Go service earlier this year due to low customer participation, Walmart is back in the speed checkout game with Check Out with Me. This new technology helps speed up customers’ checkout experience by positioning associates in the stores’ busiest departments so customers can skip the line entirely and pay for their purchase right where they are doing their shopping.
Grocers are also striving to integrate technology to offer a more streamlined shopping experience, and they would do well to promote the service during the hectic holiday shopping season. Major players like Amazon Go and Kroger as well as smaller stores like Utah’s Macey's and Fairway Market in New York City are among those who have already implemented self-checkout options from handheld scanners to app-based scanning and payment. By the end of this year, Kroger plans to have its Scan, Bag, Go program in 400 stores.
Across most retail sectors, self-checkout is growing because it addresses a major pain point for consumers. According to a recent survey by Forrester Research and Digimarc, 50% of consumer said the checkout experience at their local supermarket is "very important" while 35% classified it as "important." Eighteen percent said they would switch grocers if they believed checkout lines were too long.
Spending less time in the checkout line means shoppers can spend more time perusing the aisles and selecting products. For retailers, taking pressure off front ends means they can move staff away from checkout lanes and out onto the store floor. For Target and Walmart, handheld checkouts give employees the flexibility to process customers as well as help them in the aisles. This option could be difficult for grocers that typically process large baskets, but could certainly be a focus in high-turn areas like prepared foods.
This is expected to be a huge holiday season for retailers. The National Retail Foundation is forecasting that holiday retails sales will increase between 4.3 and 4.8 percent over 2017 for a total of $717.45 billion to $720.89 billion. Grocers plan to take a healthy slice of those sales as they roll out their holiday promotions, both in stores and online.
Technology is here to stay and will continue to evolve to meet customers’ changing needs and demands. Retailers are wise to experiment with different platforms that are the right fit for their customers. Scan and Go's demise may have been a worrying sign for skip-checkout innovation. Over the long run, however, new technology will maximize a store’s ability to meet customer expectations, building brand loyalty along the way.