retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Two stories about retailers upping their technology games…

• The Dallas Morning News reports that Kroger is “opening new stores and investing in new technology. It's bringing Scan, Bag, Go self-checkout system to 19 North Texas stores beginning in March,” as part of its Restock Kroger program, which it hopes will “generate $400 million in profit and $4 billion in free cash flow by 2020.”

The story notes that the Scan, Bag, Go system is being installed in 400 stores nationwide, requiring shoppers “to have a Kroger Plus card to use it … and the purchase is completed at the self-checkout.”

• Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, the Capital Times writes about how “Woodman's Market is a self-described ‘testing ground’ for technology that rewires the grocery shopping process. Walk into the store's bakery entrance, and one is greeted by a rack of ‘mobile shopper’ devices, small handsets that look like a cross between a scanner gun and a smartphone, made by the European tech company NCR. Customers can check one out and scan their groceries as they shop, bagging as they go. When they're done, they head to a self-checkout lane, scan one last time at the terminal and pay.”

In reading these stories, I have to admit that words like “scan” and “checkout” just leap out at me … because it was just a few days ago that I was in a store - Amazon Go - that required neither action.

I recognize that not every store can be Amazon Go. Or will want to be. If for no other reason, the economics of making a store like that work are going to be prohibitive for the foreseeable future for all but the richest companies.

But it illustrates a couple of things, I think. One is how the experience of Amazon Go shapes expectations. The other is how much retailers are going to have to do in order to compete … they’re going to need to be compelling in so many ways.

I’m going to keep pondering this, because I think it is an Eye-Opener.
KC's View: