Today’s grocery shopper craves one thing above all – convenience. The growth of contactless payments, self-checkout, ‘scan & go’ and ‘walk out’ journeys all testify to consumer desire for faster, simpler shops. Retailers know they need to evolve to deliver swifter, more autonomous, seamless interactions. Often they’re hampered by labour shortages, technical debt and budget constraints. But by adopting the right game-changing technologies they can empower customers, optimise store layout, and redeploy staff to higher-value tasks.

Here’s a quick look at the evolution of self-service in stores.


 

Faster service is not a new concept

One of the main reasons to adopt self-service is that it can save time for customers while improving efficiency for the business. But efficiency of service is not a new concept. Retailers have spent decades shaving seconds, and even fractions of seconds, off customer journeys. Previous innovations include packaging covered in multiple larger barcodes that made scanning faster, and before that, checkouts with faster conveyor belts. But there’s a difference today. Past improvements were generally built around enabling store associates to do their jobs faster. Now, the dynamic has changed. Retailers are looking to empower customers, as well as allowing staff to do more.


 

The technologies removing friction

Various digital breakthroughs have unlocked self-service growth. Facial recognition, AI, automatic numberplate recognition, QR codes, beacons and smart camera systems are among a myriad of technologies enabling customers to serve themselves.

Amazon Go and Amazon Fresh stores use a combination of computer vision, deep learning and mobile consumer apps to allow consumers to choose and pay for their own items without a cashier. Tesco uses camera-enabled skeleton recognition combined with AI-powered weight sensors. Aldi also uses cameras and its own mobile app. Other retailers are stopping short of ‘walk out’ journeys, but turning unmanned lanes into self-checkout lanes, or adopting self-scan technology that allows shoppers to scan their own items and then pay without a cashier.

“We’ve seen such a drastic evolution in self-service. Five or six years ago, retailers had a lot of doubt: ‘If we put a machine there and people have to use it to check out, they won’t want to shop with us anymore.’ But people learn technology and new ways of interacting.”

The benefits

Self-service delivers many advantages for shoppers. Self-service shoppers feel empowered to shop their way. If a store environment is optimised with the appropriate number and placing of self-checkouts, they will also save time from no longer needing to wait in line. Social distancing also means a growing number of customers value the fact that they no longer need to interact with anyone in store.

Self-service also delivers for retailers. With customers more autonomous, store associates can be redeployed to higher value tasks, including personalised service with mobile POS, inventory-focused tasks or store performance evaluation. When registers are removed, stores have more space to display stock or digital advertising, boosting sales. The data-driven nature of self-service also unlocks future benefits, as AI and advanced insights mature, they will automatically suggest and order optimum stock levels for peak time or seasonal shopping.

“87% of shoppers say they would prefer to shop in stores with touchless or robust self-checkout options… self-checkout options remain popular with nearly 75% of shoppers using self-checkout to pay for groceries frequently.”

The key consideration

While self-service should be central to every grocery and convenience retailer’s strategy, it should never be considered in isolation. Today, almost every customer moves between physical and digital shopping channels. Shopping journeys may end in store but begin many miles away on an eCommerce site. As they switch between channels, shoppers still expect a consistent service, where their loyalty, rewards, personal preferences and expected pricing is available and consistent. Any failure to recognise and reward the customer will result in frustration.


 

What Flooid does to help

Flooid’s unified commerce platform connects every customer touchpoint across web, mobile and store. Whichever channels the customer uses, the product, promotions, prices, tax and receipts remain consistent. Flooid’s cloud-based commerce engine enables deep AI-led insights into purchase history – by transaction and by store – plus rich personalisation options that can increase sales and influence shopper behaviour. Flooid’s platform is compatible with any endpoint, including web and mobile commerce, self-service – including self-scan and self-checkout, and both manned and mobile point-of-sale.

Trusted by leading grocery and convenience retailers, Flooid has recently delivered a new point-of-sale system to more than 900 One Stop stores in the UK, and modernised commerce across 396 stores for Woolworths South Africa.

Speak to the Flooid team today if you’d like to learn more about how we can help you with your journey to empowered customers and optimised stores.

Flooid works with some of the world’s leading retailers. If you would like to learn more about Flooid’s capabilities, please Contact us.

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