Update: Macy's will roll out mobile barcode self-scan for accelerated checkout to all stores by the end of the year, CEO Jeff Gennette said during a keynote at Shoptalk in Las Vegas Sunday.
Customers can scan product barcodes to pay through the app, then visit a specific counter to get a bag and have product tags removed, he said. The retailer's mobile app and website will also see a redesign this year.
Phones are the entry point to the brand now, Gennette said, and personalization will be a big part of the way forward.
Macy’s will soon join a list of several other big names in retail using mobile apps to accelerate the checkout process. That list of course includes Amazon, Walmart, Kroger and Starbucks, to name just a few.
The legendary department store chain could end up having the capability available in more of its locations than any other retailer, aside from China’s JD.com, which reportedly is planning "hundreds" of unmanned convenience stores.
And therein lies a wrinkle in comparing one retailer’s mobile scan-and-checkout capability to another’s. Some may depend on mobile apps living on shoppers’ phones, while others depend on store-owned scanning devices. Also, some may be part of a broader store-of-the-future vision in which stores no longer have human employees, which may be what Amazon and JD.com are up to, while others are simply an effort to loosen up checkout line bottlenecks and convince shoppers they can get in and out of a store quickly if they need to. That’s where Macy’s offering appears to fit in.
There’s also a key difference between Macy’s and some of the other retailers that have been aggressive with mobile checkout. Those other retailers have at least one foot, and in some cases both feet, planted in the markets for groceries and/or convenience retail items (like lattes). Offering mobile self-scan and accelerated checkout can be a huge factor in helping those operators lure customers in for frequent, small purchases. However, this kind of technology has not been as quickly embraced by department stores and apparel retailers. Macy’s use of it could prove to be a major test of mobile checkout’s viability across other retail segments.
Department stores are supposed to enjoying a modest revival these days, though with its many store closings, Macy’s has a deeper hole to climb out of than others. In the retailer’s recent fourth quarter earnings report, Gennette suggested Macy’s is making progress doing that. As part of the recovery effort, he’s directing Macy’s to embrace trends like new promotions, subscription boxes, pop-ups and other new store concepts and now mobile checkout. We’ll see how well it all works, but in many cases it seems certain that in the retailer’s attempt to revive its energy and win back customers, Gennette will leave few tricks untried.