retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Boston Globe had a nice story about Ahold-owned Stop & Shop’s newest technology offering. The story is framed this way:

“Self-checkouts are so yesterday. And with consumers complaining about them and some companies eliminating them, supermarkets are seeking new ways to lure in shoppers who want to get in and out quickly.

“Enter SCAN IT! Mobile, Stop & Shop’s new smartphone app, which lets customers shop with barely a stop. SCAN IT! Mobile is the son of SCAN IT!, a hand-held device currently found in 350 of the chain’s outlets. Both iterations of SCAN IT! do pretty much the same thing: enable customers to scan and bag their groceries as they shop. You whip through the checkout by basically waving your phone at the register. It reads, you pay, you go.

“The app is designed to work on an iPhone or Android. Download it - it’s linked to your loyalty card - and you’re good to go.”

The story says that in a recent test, “it seemed to work just as advertised, and if you’re already using your smartphone to, say, compare prices or features as you shop, this will be a natural extension.”
KC's View:
Stop & Shop should feel good about the positive reviews, but there is one thing about the piece that bothers me. (You knew I’d find something...)

There is a reference to ways “to avoid human contact,” and I just hate that. Sure, these kinds of mobile shopping technologies make it possible for a shopper to avoid personal interaction, and in the long run they may make it possible for companies to save some labor hours. But I continue to believe that this ought not be the goal, that one of the fundamental problems with many supermarkets is the lack of personal connection that many shoppers feel when they walk through the front door.

Many of the products are the same, and a lot of the prices are comparable ... and so what is going to set them apart? Technology is good, but it won’t do the trick all on its own.