How Smart is Smart Shopping?


Picture this, you have just spent 10 minutes grabbing all the items on your shopping list after a long day at work. You have three options:

  1. You head towards the staff-controlled tills with the likelihood 2 out of 7 tills are open.
  2. You make the brave move towards the self-service checkouts with the risk of every other item being an ‘unexpected item in the bagging area’ and wait for an exhausted employee to come and use their ID card to relieve you of the stress.
  3. You walk straight out having used the scan and go technology that allows you to pay on your phone avoiding all contact with queues and interaction.

No matter which one you pick, choice three is where grocery shopping is heading. In April this year Sainsbury’s launched its first ever till free supermarket. Sainsbury’s claim over 3,000 customers sign up every week and it works in 68 stores.

This is by no means the first of its kind.

Last year, Amazon Go introduced the “Just walk out” shopping experience with no checkout required. The technology can detect when products are taken or returned to the shelves and keeps track of them in your virtual trolley. When you leave the store with your goods, your Amazon account is charged, and you are sent a receipt.

Elsewhere in foodservice Wetherspoons introduced the ‘order and pay’ app in 2017. Plus, it is no longer unusual to be asked to be sent your receipt via email or text in many high street stores.

Should we be surprised by this move towards checkout-less supermarkets? Implementation of self-service checkouts in Britain has grown from 7,000 in 2008 to 42,000 in 2015. Today 4 out of 5 shoppers use this method of payment.

However, 93% of customers describe the systems as ‘frustrating’ and many self-service checkout areas require employees manning the area, assisting shoppers and monitoring for theft. ‘Unexplained item in the bagging area’ is avoided at staff-operated checkouts.

How does scan and go work?

You either pick up a scanner handset or use an app on your mobile to scan items and put them straight into your bag and trolley. At the end of your shop you can pay via the app, or self-service checkout.

Smart Shopping Benefits

Increased average speed per visit

Barclaycard has been trialing its own solution called Grab & Go in its staff canteens and claims the technology has significantly sped up the shopping process. The trial is revealing the average time from when customers made a decision to buy an item through to completing the transaction and walking away was reduced from five and a half minutes to 32 seconds.

Save as you spend.

Keeping to budget and you can begin to realise the aisles that are testing your bank account. Plus, in-aisle checkout makes it easy for consumers to earn points and coupons and use them for that purchase, rather than having to wait until the next visit.

Positive engagement with staff

Mobile self-checkout enables associates to be redeployed throughout the store. If equipped with a staff portal, associates can monitor and assist consumers throughout their time in store. This human engagement could foster loyalty and drives increased spend.

Environment in mind

Efficiencies extend beyond checkouts too, by limiting the need to produce paper receipts, coupons and print advertising, as they can be pushed or provisioned directly to the smartphone.

According to Clodagh Moriarty, Sainsbury’s Group Chief Digital Officer argues ‘technology is key’ to allowing customers value their time and shop as quickly as possible. ‘Unknown item in bagging area’ may become a nostalgic phrase reminding us of a more clunky grocery shop past.

Fallbacks – inevitable teething problems

Not too young, but not too old either

Is scan and go suitable for all ages? Is this system made purely for millennials or is it really simple enough for every one of every age to get on board with? There is no doubt certain products will be off limits under this technology: beer, wine, spirits and cigarettes? Staff will still need to be involved.

Staff on patrol duty

Just like with self-service checkouts that started with 4 stations and now have at least 10 in each store, they require a member of staff to man the area. This might mean staff would need to patrol the aisles to be available to offer help for shoppers who have issues with scanning or monitor consumers to adhere by the rules.

Opinions of Scan & Go by HRA Global

Asking in the office to get an idea of their opinions of the scan and go system highlighted that it was difficult to buy products which had been reduced. This demonstrates the teething problems the overall system has. What happens if you lose signal in store whilst using the app, and also the continued question over items charged by weight.

The system has already been shelved

In the US, Walmart quietly shelved its mobile express scan & go service. No official statement was released as to why they have chosen to discontinue this service in 120 stores but published reports did indicate some explanation. The basket size of a typical Walmart shopping trip made using scan & go difficult to use for many customers, andit was difficult to scan a large number of items such as fresh products like fruit and vegetables.

These issues are certainly inevitable with British consumers, especially on a nationwide scale.

Technology Vs. Addiction to our smart phones

Interestingly, research from the University of Bath discovered that when people are distracted by their mobile phones during a trip to the supermarket. Researchers believe people spend more because using a phone distracts people from their planned lists, so they shop on autopilot. This research certainly makes the move towards scan & go more interesting for us as we watch the grocery market unfold with new technology.

The transformation of how people will shop within supermarkets will certainly change the dynamic for how products will be marketed and branded. This is definitely an area we will be looking into for our current and future clients, ensuring their products are scanned and not shelved.

Interested in finding out how new technology will impact on your brand? Get in touch, email us [email protected] or call +44 (0) 2039 319066

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