Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Checking Out - Without Talking To A Human

OK, technically you can already do this with self checkout. Except for the fact that they virtually NEVER work, frustrating the customer to no end.

In fact, it ends up taking longer, because the little light starts blinking, and then you have to wait for an associate (who is inevitably in the middle of a ridiculously long story with another co-worker) come and wave a key fob to take over and hit one button to fix it. Can you tell I'm not a big fan?

But, I've just read about a new mobile app from Aisle Buyer where a customer can scan a barcode and pay for the item right there in the aisle. No need to go through a checkout. The customer shows a receipt on his or her phone to an associate before leaving.

Now I realize this brings up a whole host of potential theft issues. It's sort of the wholesale club idea of checking the receipt but not really being able to "look" at the receipt and all the items in the cart to make sure it matches up.

However, it seems like the opportunities for impulse buys are greatly increased if a customer doesn't have the stigma of a line to deal with. Plus, you can offer them special discounts or promotions once they scan the barcode, offering greater flexibility in your marketing messages.

It's an interesting concept, and one I'm going to watch closely to see if it catches on. The app is available currently in the Android market, and being beta tested (interestingly enough) in an independent specialty children's operation called Magic Beans, located in Massachusetts.

Could this be just one more way independent garden centers set themselves apart from the competition?