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Smooth checkout process could mean grab & go will be the new norm

As Walmart takes a major step forward with its Scan & Go platforms and the Amazon Go store makes headlines, a significant upset might be coming to grocery retail now that these major players have the keys to push the grab-and-go strategy forward.

While the technology for a grab-and-go retail model has been alive for at least ten years, created by IBM, Amazon and Walmart wielding these tools might be enough to push the strategy into mainstream behavior. As Amazon continues to dominate the retail sector and its reach to the masses is substantial, grab & go might be the way of the future, but success will lie with an easy experience and widespread reach.

“The checkout-free trend isn’t a completely new concept – in fact, the idea of grab-and-go tech was conceptualized by IBM more than ten years ago with their RFID technology,” Chris Hodges, a director of customer experience at West Monroe Partners. “Today, Amazon’s brand, reach and ability to push cutting-edge technology concepts to the masses grants it renewed credibility to a bring this feature to fruition.

“This is important because many retailers are likely to not only follow Amazon’s lead, but to actually produce these technologies quicker than expected to keep up with the rising competition,” he said. “But the devil will be in the details in the coming years, as retailers will have to execute a seamless customer experience when handling errors and inventory shrinkage.

“It’s difficult to tell whether Amazon Go’s technology will instantly stick. This depends on how well the pilot concept is executed and received at the experimental store in Seattle. Since Amazon has spent the R&D to prove the concept, it has been proven that other companies would benefit from ‘fast following’ this idea and implementing it in their stores once it’s proven successful.”

Shopping in the future
Walmart has finally launched its Scan & Go app for Android, which was first mentioned in 2013. It is only being tested at one location for now, in Rogers, Arkansas, but if it reaches mass rollout a major dynamic shift will take place.

Warehouse retailer Sam’s Club, a Walmart-owned company, has also fully rolled out the use of its Scan & Go store solution, which became live at all Sam’s Club locations in the United States in October of last year. Sam’s Club began testing the app in October 2015, launching various expansions throughout last year until its full rollout.

Both apps allow customers to scan products with a mobile app and walk out with them, skipping the line at the checkout entirely. Shoppers can scan their items as they shop, pay through the app and show their receipt on their mobile devices on the way out (see more).

Sam’s Club is often used as a testing ground for Walmart Stores for up-and-coming solutions and innovations in which data can be gathered and tested for further products.

After completely dominating the online shopping world, Amazon is continuing to move further into physical retail with its a bricks-and-mortar grocery store.

The new store – Amazon Go – which is not yet open to the general public but likely will be in the near future, completely removes the idea of a checkout line at a grocery store in yet another industry-shaking move. The new store is currently only available for Amazon employees within testing (see more).

While these platforms are only just catching on, once it reaches mass market and consumers become comfortable with it, it will drastically change the way retailers, operate.

Consumer adoption
Consumers are short on time and are always interested in the next thing to make their lives simpler and complete tasks faster. The idea of grab-and-go right now seems like an idealistic experience from the future, but the truth is, if the experience works consumers will adopt it.

To better compete with the Amazon giant, retailers might very well likely kick it up a notch and develop their own, better technology at a faster rate.

Once this technology becomes commonplace, it could even have the potential for retailers to cut down costs by saving money on traditional POS systems that require a series of expensive equipment.

“Consumers are time-starved and appreciate anything that makes the shopping experience easier or faster,” said David Naumann, vice president of marketing at BRP. “Similar to the new Amazon Go store concept, Walmart and Sam’s Club are attempting to satisfy consumers’ desire for convenience.

“While these new approaches that bypass the checkout lane are a novelty today, they will eventually become commonplace,” he said. “In addition to an improved customer experience, it is more cost effective to turn your customer’s mobile phone into a POS and guided selling tool than to invest in POS terminals, self-checkout terminals and/or robots.

“Amazon continues to set and raise the bar on consumer expectations. Once consumers get accustomed to a faster shopping experience at one retail brand, it will become their new expectation and other retailers will have to catch-up.”