retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Stores magazine has a piece about AisleBuyer, described as a system that “enables shoppers to use their smartphone cameras to scan UPC codes and complete their purchases without having to wait in line: They can just show their phone’s screen to an employee at the front door and be on their way.”

The system is just in pilot status at this point, at a Boston children’s store. But there are some interesting components to AisleBuyer that makes it worth noting.

AisleBuyer has the ability to provide detailed product information to the shopper - including, if used in a food store, nutritional data that could help consumers make smarter buying decisions.

And, AisleBuyer’s platform also provides “a complete analytics package that reflects how consumers interact with products from scan to checkout. It provides retailers with demographic, geographic and behavioral analytics, as well as targeting benefits previously only available to online retailers. The application will also suggest similar or complementary items for customers.”
KC's View:
All of which adds up to greater transparency on both ends, which is where the retailing business is going, especially in the food segment.

And let’s face it, anything that can improve or eliminate the checkout experience is probably a good thing, since it generally is the worst part of shopping.

Another interesting passage from Stores:

This comes at a time when m-commerce has become a buzzword in industry circles. Last year, a Deloitte survey estimated that 19 percent of Americans used mobile devices for shopping – and the figure was twice as high among younger consumers.

This is a critical piece of intelligence, because it suggests fundamental ways in which consumer habits are changing.

Interestingly, Fast Company has a piece about how the Old Navy chain is using an iPhone-based system called ZipCheck, which allows any employee to check out a customer anywhere in the store. Here’s what the story says: ZipCheck “appears to be a modified form of the iPod Touch-based mobile EasyPay system Apple started using last year [1] at its retail stores. An iPod containing proprietary Apple software is attached to a barcode reader and a credit card scanner. The device is wirelessly connected to printers around the store as well as mini-printers the staff can wear on their belts, for easy receipt printing. The software in use at Mac stores allows staffers to process cash transactions, credit and debit cards, and even returns. In other words, store clerks can ring you up from anywhere.”

If I worked for a supermarket chain (and had any real responsibility and/or authority, which might be a real mistake on the part of the company), I’d be calling the guys at AisleBuyer and ZipCheck today...and then try to figure out who their competitors are, and start calling them, too. This seems so emblematic of the shopping experience of the future ... and retailers have to pay attention.

The customer of the future may well look at the traditional checkout experience as being obsolete and representative of old-world, antiquated thinking. Retailers certainly have to start considering this possibility, and figuring out strategic and tactical steps. In the food segment, AisleBuyer and ZipCheck may not be the precise answers...but there almost certainly will be some combination of the two, with a twist here and a turn there, that will be the answer. Or at least one answer.

Retailers better start asking the questions.