Many ways to accept payments

August 03, 2011

Technologies bring new customer payment options to the front-end, but at a possible cost of lost human interaction.

Don’t make people wait to pay. This cardinal rule drives food retailers to seek new approaches that could improve speed, shopper comfort and front-end performance.

These approaches include self-checkouts, more staffed lanes at peak times, a single line at the front-end, tunnel scanning, electronic coupon verifiers – and perhaps in the future RFID. But The Lempert Report thinks payments by mobile phone could soon become a common option.

The ubiquity of cell phones and the rapid growth of smartphones suggest the convenience of mobile checkout would drive popularity, as long as privacy and security issues could be tamed. Swipe pay is a differentiator for gasoline stations; it could do the same for food stores. And if this behavior grows before the 2014 target date for widespread GS1 Databar implementation, retailers could potentially save on costly capital investments.  

Some 40% of iPhone owners are the most likely to want near-field communications (including a mobile wallet) in their next cell phone, compared with 24% of Android owners, found Retrevo’s latest Pulse study. Yet a full embrace isn’t around the corner: just 25% of U.S. consumers currently want to buy goods with a mobile wallet, and this skews towards younger males.

Globally, however, mobile payments are expected to grow 40% among 2.5 billion users by 2015, says Juniper Research. The dollar value of mobile transactions will likely exceed $1 trillion by that year, says Yankee Group, according to a Mobile Commerce Daily account.

A similar dichotomy exists in self-checkouts. U.S. operator Albertsons LLC had self-checkouts in about 100 of its 217 stores at the start of 2011, and said this summer it will remove them in favor of more customer interaction. They’re not alone among chains deciding to either opt out of self-checkouts or examine viability based on store locations.  

Worldwide, however, self-checkout suppliers sold $524.1 million worth of equipment in 2010, up from 46% from 2007, according to VDC Research Group, which forecasts 84% growth over the next five years, reports MSNBC. “As technology improves, self-checkout likely will migrate into store aisles as customers armed with smartphones use new apps to scan and pay for items on the spot,” it adds.