A new urgency to address checkout

March 21, 2014

New front-end strategies and technologies hold promise for faster, convenient payment processes.

What will be the next iteration of the supermarket checkout?

Food stores need to quell shopper frustration with lines and waiting. In the 2014 National Grocers Association-SupermarketGuru Consumer Survey Report, almost half of U.S. adults (48.9%) say fast checkout is “very important” to their selection of a primary food store. This near 9-point rise from 2013 is a harbinger of store switching and lost trips for stores that don’t address this issue. 

The Lempert Report believes retailers that find ways to speed shoppers through and make paying easier will protect and potentially gain trips. At the same time, they could help seal one of their shrink vulnerabilities – the sweetheart ring – and possibly deploy labor hours in more advantageous ways. Also, with the right cloud-based technologies, retailers could save a lot of redundant costs, manage enterprise data smarter, connect better with Millennials’ mobile devices, and entice more purchases with precisely targeted incentives and coupons.

These possibilities go well beyond self-checkouts and candy-free checklanes, which are some common ways retailers have tried to improve the front-end in recent years. Of course, retailers will have to quickly improve their data security practices, in light of recent data breaches, as most people prefer plastic rather than cash. (Read last week's story, A cash comeback at retail?) Data from Nielsen’s Global Survey of Saving and Investment Strategies show 54% of respondents in 60 nations opt for plastic; North America leans most heavily this way, at 71%.

In two recent developments:

  • Whole Foods Market says it will use Square technology within select stores at its sandwich counters, juice and coffee bars, pizzerias, and beer and wine bars to allow shoppers to “skip the main checkout lines, reducing wait times for all customers.” Co-CEO Water Robb is using Square to “deliver options to expedite checkouts…[and develop] new concepts to further simplify and improve grocery shopping.”
  • Amazon may soon offer physical-store retailers “a checkout system that uses Kindle tablets as soon as this summer,” The Wall Street Journal reports. This could include credit-card readers and services such as website development and data analysis.