Scan & Go Delivers Where Self-Checkout Disappoints

Retail has changed more in the past year than in the previous decade. The pandemic has accelerated ecommerce and online options, which have been introduced out of necessity. Now, shoppers have more choices than ever, resulting in new demands for their desired in-store experiences, like scan & go, for example. If someone opts to shop a brick-and-mortar location nowadays, that person more than likely wants a high-tech, low-touch experience that gives them more control and peace of mind.

I say that with confidence because our 2020 consumer study found that 81% of consumers would prefer to use their own device for in-store shopping. This process mimics the online experience but provides the added benefits of physical retailing. These findings are complemented by other industry feedback I’ve read.

In March, Apptopia examined app downloads and engagement, comparing Sam’s Club user feedback to the apps of other wholesale peers. “People were continually praising the new ‘scan & go’ feature,” Apptopia noted. Further, a senior reporter from Business Insider recently shopped using Walmart’s scan & go feature on the mobile app. She found that “the process was easy and intuitive,” and that with enough practice, using scan & go could become “second nature.”

The idea of a consumer managing the checkout process independent of a store associate isn’t a new concept, but how does a device-based, app-driven alternative deliver more effectively than traditional self-checkout? 

Self-Checkout Promises Empowerment, Leads to Frustration

Nine in ten Americans (89%) say it’s important that grocery stores utilize technology to speed up the checkout experience, according to a survey from Phononic. Providing unmanned checkout terminals has been one way to do this, but it’s usually not the most ideal customer experience.

Brian Merchant of Gizmodo explains an all-too-familiar downside to self-checkout: “Incessant, erroneous repetitions of ‘please place your item in the bag’ and ‘unknown item in the bagging area’ are among the most-loathed phrases in the 21st century lexicon for a reason, and that reason is that self-checkout is categorically awful.”

Indeed, troubleshooting a self-checkout can fluster even the most even-keeled shopper. Current self-scanning kiosks take more time, in most cases, and cause undue stress. The hypothetical convenience and speed of self-checkouts are both canceled out when a user error or weight discrepancy prompts a ‘wait for cashier assistance’ message to pop up on the screen. Plus, assisted checkouts can still lead to the formation of queues, with shoppers lined up waiting for a kiosk to be made available – and, in these COVID times, sanitized before their use.

Scan & Go Puts Shoppers in Control

Scan & go delivers the promise of self-checkout while eliminating its downsides. It can be a faster alternative, and in this day and age, health-conscious shoppers who want fewer touchpoints will spend less time standing in line and engaging face-to-face as they shop.

In addition to the percentage of consumers preferring to use their own device, our retail survey revealed that 84% of shoppers already have at least one retail app on their phones. This reflects  an established willingness to engage with retailers via app in one way or another, whether it be in-store navigation, digital coupons, product discovery or loyalty programs.

Leveraging scan & go once a shopper has an app downloaded wouldn’t be too big a hurdle to jump, if an easy-to-use scanning feature is incorporated and promoted for user adoption. Besides delivering on a preferred checkout option, retailers have the opportunity to build loyalty and gain customer insights when they offer this experience for in-store shoppers.

With the app downloaded and scan & go enabled, shoppers can scan items as they’re placed into their carts, seeing the total price in real time to adjust for any budget constraints. Age-restricted items can be authorized with integrated ID verification in the app. Digital payment set up ahead of time also speeds up checkout – shoppers can skip any line that’s formed at a traditional checkout or unattended kiosk, instead showing a receipt or QR code to the sales associate monitoring the exit. This final – and importantly, brief – touchpoint at the door can act as a failsafe for potential theft, with an employee verifying that items in a bag or basket match those on the proof of purchase.

Giving Consumers the Power to Choose

At the end of the day, shoppers are unique, and each person has their own personal preference. That’s why it’s important for a retailer to know their customer base and provide a subset of options for the in-store experience, keeping in mind different inclinations for a variety of technology.

A professor of retail studies in the UK explains what this looks like in a grocery setting: “You see that you’ve got a choice – self-scan as you go, ‘10 items or less’ express queue, standard queue and self-service checkout – then, as the consumer, you’re in control of which journey you want.”

Consumers want choice, so give them another checkout option suited for the new retail landscape.

Lukas Kinigadner is Co-Founder and CEO of Anyline